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August 16, 2023

FOR/Maine Coalition wins grant to boost Maine’s forest product workforce

person wearing helmet in woods Courtesy / FOR/Maine Coalition  Between 1,100 and 1,300 jobs will be needed in emerging forest industries over the next decade.

A Maine forest industry coalition said it plans to use a grant of $113,243 to offer a 10-week, virtual course designed to help Mainers earn micro-credentials and college credits for jobs in the burgeoning sector. 

The grant to the FOR/Maine (Forest Opportunity Roadmap) Coalition comes from a private trustee’s group and will be administered by the Maine Business Education Partnership. 

FOR/Maine is a collaboration among industry, communities, government, education and nonprofits trying to realize the next generation of Maine’s forest economy. The coalition is supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was created to assess Maine’s current industry, assets and readiness and determine a strategy to capitalize on new opportunities.  

The course will be called “The Business of Maine’s Forestry Products Sector” and will use industry and workforce partnerships to link Mainers with jobs, support resources, education and industry experts. 

FOR/Maine, which is staffed by the Maine Development Foundation, will partner with Sunrise County Economic Council to develop and implement the course. It will be offered through Washington County Community College and available virtually to Mainers statewide. 

“Participants will come away with the knowledge, credentials and relationships they need to begin their own career journey and earn a family-supporting wage,” said Denise Cilley, associate director of the Sunrise County Economic Council. “At the same time, companies will have a new pool of well-prepared candidates for the workforce they need to continue expanding in Maine.”  

The need for skilled workers across the forest sector is growing, according to a 2021 FOR/Maine Workforce Strategy Report. By 2030, over 26% of the forest products workforce will have reached retirement age with 37% at retirement age by 2035. Younger workers coming into the field are well below replacement levels. 

“We have great jobs that pay family-supporting level salaries and generous benefits that we cannot fill,” said Ryan Bushey, human resources and safety manager for LP Corp.-Houlton and chair of the FOR/Maine Workforce Committee. “Between 1,100 and 1,300 jobs will be needed in emerging forest industries over the next decade. In addition, approximately 1,500 to 1,750 jobs will be needed in the harvesting industry. Programs like this course are a tremendous help.”

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