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Training grant to help prep workers for jobs in Ashland area

ASHLAND, Maine — With lumber mills and other businesses in the Ashland area desperate for employees, a new training program starting this fall will help lower-income workers gain new skills to work in those in-demand jobs. 

The Maine Community Development Block Grant program awarded the town of Ashland a $50,000 public service grant to cover tuition and other costs for low- and moderate-income workers who enroll in professional or trade courses and agree to work at area businesses.  

Lumber mills such as Maibec in Masardis and J.D. Irving in Nashville Plantation have an ongoing need for workers skilled in welding, electrical systems and boiler operations, said Joella Theriault, community development specialist with the Northern Maine Development Commission, who helped the town apply for the grant.

“They just can’t fill those job vacancies,” Theriault said.

“We intend to send up to 8 people to take a course at a trade school,” she said. “If we can get them educated, then they will be eligible to apply for those positions at area businesses.”

Under the program, individuals can receive up to $6,000 for tuition, books, supplies, transportation and child care to attend a professional or trade course at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle or another higher education institution. Under the program, the participants agree to work at an employer in Ashland, Portage Lake, Masardis, Nashville Plantation, Garfield Plantation and Oxbow Plantation.

Theriault said the individuals will be able to complete one semester of coursework and then receive on-the-job training.

With a skilled workforce entering into retirement age, manufacturers, lumber mills and logging companies in northern Maine are trying to ensure there is a strong workforce for the coming decades. Maibec in Masardis, Aroostook County’s largest sawmill, is planning an expansion over the next two years, Theriault noted.

“We think there’s going to be a need for the workforce.”

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