The Star-Herald

Mechanized logging class in fifth year

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Classes are now underway for students in the Mechanized Logging Operations Program, which began its fifth year of classes June 28 in the woods northeast of Old Town.

Students enrolled in the program at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle will spend weeks harvesting timber using modern machines like those they will encounter in the logging industry. The hands-on experience students gain operating equipment is something unavailable anywhere else in Maine and neighboring states.

“There is no better, more affordable, more efficient way to gain the experience and knowledge you need to begin a successful career as an equipment operator in the logging industry than this program,” Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said. “The Mechanized Logging Operations Program achieves results and as demand for operators continues to grow it is vital to meeting that need.”

“This project is a great example of how collaboration and cooperation between business, industry and higher education can address workforce concerns,” stated Timothy Crowley, NMCC president.

Launched in 2017, the program was jointly developed by the PLC and NMCC, Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC), and Washington County Community College (WCCC) with industry support. Students gain knowledge of the most common timber harvesting systems, and an understanding of the variables of timber growth, tree species and markets. The course also includes a strong emphasis on safety. 

Graduation will be in September.

Supported by the Maine Community College System’s Maine Quality Centers, students pay no tuition or fees and the program provides all required personal protective equipment. Maine Quality Centers develops and supports skilled in-demand and high wage occupations in Maine through a variety of training opportunities. 

“These students will soon join the graduates from the program of past years who are now some of the best equipment operators in the state. The quality of the graduates and the valuable skills they have after only 12 weeks with us is recognized by logging contractors who have supported the development of this program from the beginning,” Leah Buck, NMCC assistant dean of continuing education and program administrator, said.

“We are helping this latest group realize their dreams of becoming Maine loggers; they are learning how to do work safely and will soon join other graduates as a new generation of loggers,” Buck said.

Demand for skilled operators of the feller bunchers, harvesters, grapple skidders, forwarders, delimbers, and other mechanized logging equipment that now harvests more than 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. 

Mechanized logging operators are among the highest paid members of the logging workforce.

The mechanized logging class has drawn students from within the logging industry as well as from Maine’s high school vocational logging programs. 

“NMCC is pleased to provide the training opportunities for these twelve individuals to lead a more productive life, while taking steps toward supporting Maine’s logging industry,” Crowley said.

Maine’s forest products sector is worth an estimated $7.7 billion annually. The logging industry contributed an estimated $619 million to the Maine economy in 2017, supported more than 9,000 jobs directly or indirectly, generated $342 million in labor income, and paid an estimated $25 million in state and local tax.

For more information, contact Leah Buck at Northern Maine Community College at 207-768-2768, or visit online at nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/.

Additional information including videos on the program may be found on the PLC website at maineloggers.com/mechanized-logging-operations-program/.

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