PORTLAND – The Professional Logging Contractors (PLC) of Maine received the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) Education at Work for Maine Award Thursday evening at FAME’s annual meeting and awards event, Showcase Maine, at Portland’s Holiday Inn By The Bay.
Nominated for the award by Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), PLC was selected for its role in creating Maine’s only postsecondary training program for operators of mechanized logging equipment, the Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP).
The program was launched in 2017 thanks to a partnership between three Maine community colleges including NMCC, the PLC, and industry partners including Milton CAT and Nortrax/John Deere. It has been supported since its inception through Maine Quality Centers, a program to develop and support skilled in-demand and high wage occupations in Maine.
“The PLC is honored to receive this award on behalf of our members and pleased that it will bring additional visibility to the program, which continues to grow in success and in importance to the future of the logging industry in Maine,” Dana Doran, Executive Director of the PLC, said. “We would like to thank FAME for the award and for recognizing the value of the program and the collaboration it represents. The logging contractors of the PLC deserve credit for both identifying a need for skilled new workers in the industry and for tackling this ambitious solution to meet it, and we are grateful to the community college system, state lawmakers, Maine Quality Centers, and our valued industry partners for joining us in making it a reality.”
Fifteen graduates of the third and largest MLOP class were recognized Sept. 19 at an event held in the woods of Western Maine where they spent weeks harvesting timber using sophisticated state-of-the-art mechanized logging machines. Previous classes were held in the summers of 2017 and 2018. Plans are already in motion to offer two classes in 2020 and a location for those classes is now being finalized.
“This program provides a direct pathway to a good-paying, exciting career in the Maine woods at a time when there is huge demand for new workers,” Doran said. “There is no better or more efficient way to gain the experience and knowledge you need to become an equipment operator in the logging industry.”
The program gives students a broad overview of the most common mechanical systems found in modern timber harvesting equipment, and an understanding of the variables of timber growth, tree species, and markets. It also includes a strong emphasis on safety.
Students who are accepted into the program pay no tuition, but are responsible for transportation, housing, and food costs. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is provided by the program.
While the logging industry has seen some contraction in recent years due to the loss of pulp and paper mills, the industry is rebounding and the demand for skilled operators of the feller bunchers, harvesters, grapple skidders, forwarders, delimbers, and other mechanized logging equipment that now harvests 95 percent of all timber in Maine is strong. Many current operators are reaching retirement age and the steep costs of training new operators is driving up demand and wages.
The hands-on experience students gain operating equipment for weeks in the woods is something unavailable anywhere else in Maine and neighboring states.
The new program is working in tandem with the state’s current vocational training system and is expected to draw many of its students from within the logging industry itself as well as from Maine’s four high school vocational logging programs. For the first time, logging operators are being trained similarly to other advanced trade occupations with a high school and postsecondary approach.
It generally takes at least a year of training and experience before an operator becomes skilled enough to run mechanized logging equipment safely and efficiently. The cost for companies to train these operators themselves is approximately $100,000 each.
A promotional video for MLOP developed by the PLC gives potential students a good look at the opportunities afforded by the program and the logging industry.
The video was developed thanks to support from Farm Credit East. It is available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI5YwXiM6Gg
More information on the program is available online at http://www.nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/
Learn more about the PLC at www.maineloggers.com.
Showcase Maine is FAME’s annual celebration of its successful partnerships with Maine’s business, lending, governmental, and higher education communities. The evening featured a reception, including a showcase of exhibits by Maine businesses and educational organizations that partner with FAME; a dinner and awards presentation; and a keynote speech by Maine’s own U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Retired) Travis Mills entitled “Never Give Up. Never Quit.”
FAME is a quasi-independent state agency that provides financial solutions that help Maine people achieve their business and higher education goals. FAME helps to create a Maine workforce that with good-paying jobs by focusing on the nexus of economic and educational development. FAME recently was recognized for the fifth year in a row as one of the Best Places to Work in Maine. To learn more about FAME, please visit www.famemaine.com.