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September 12, 2018

Second mechanized logging class to graduate this week

Courtesy  / Professional Logging Contractors of Maine
Courtesy / Professional Logging Contractors of Maine
Students in Maine's only post-secondary mechanized logging program work with state-of-the art equipment they will encounter in industry. The second class, of eight students, will graduate this week, according to the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, which developed the program with community colleges with support from businesses.

Maine's only post-secondary mechanized logging training program will graduate its second class, of eight students, later this week.

Friday's commencement ceremony will take place in the woods southeast of Ashland, where the group spent weeks harvesting timber using sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment like those used in industry today, including feller bunchers and harvesters. The course runs for 12 weeks, and there is none like it in Maine or neighboring states.

Six students attended and graduated from last summer's inaugural session, which was held in Millinocket.

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine jointly developed the program with Northern Maine Community College, Eastern Maine Community College and Washington County Community College, with support from industry partners including Milton CAT/CAT Forest Products and Nordtax Inc./John Deere.

"This program could not have come at a better time for Maine's logging industry and these graduates, Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, told Mainebiz via email. "Demand for operators of mechanized logging equipment exceeds supply, and job prospects for these graduates are bright as the industry rebounds in a strong economy."

He also noted that that 2017 graduates were all hired before finishing the program, and that demand has only increased since then.

Doran added: "With many in our logging workforce rapidly approaching retirement age, we need to continue to support and grow programs like this one to ensure that as wood markets expand, Maine logging contractors have the workers they need to capitalize on those markets."

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 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 occupations with a high school and post-secondary approach, according to the PLC.

About 95% of logging in Maine now relies on mechanized equipment, which generally takes a year of training for someone to gain the skills to run it safely and efficiently. The cost for companies to train operators themselves is about $100,000 each.

With all that in mind, the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine partnered with the Maine Community College System and industry to create the mechanized logging program. It also released a promotional video in January at at luring fresh young talent to the sector.

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