SUMMIT TOWNSHIP – Twelve graduates of Maine’s only college training program for operators of mechanized logging equipment were recognized Thursday, Sept. 16 at a ceremony held at the site where they spent weeks harvesting timber using sophisticated state-of-the-art machines like those they will encounter in the logging industry.
Students in the 12-week Mechanized Logging Operations Program (MLOP) spent the summer and early fall at the site, gaining hands-on logging experience and benefiting from the guidance of veteran logging instructors for an educational experience that is unmatched by any other logger training program in Maine and neighboring states.
Tony Madden, President of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine (PLC), congratulated the students on their achievement and on their career choice.
“We welcome you all to the team of logging professionals, the training you have received in this program has given you many options,” Madden said. “You should have no problem finding work…my advice is to find work with a logging contractor that takes pride in their work, preferably a PLC contractor, in the long run, you won’t regret it.”
Tim Crowley, President of Northern Maine Community College (NMCC), said the program has been successful because of strong collaboration between the college, industry partners, and the PLC, and is a model for how programs will be developed in the future.
“It’s people working together, and this is the best example in the state of Maine,” Crowley said.
Graduates included: Andrew Hatchell of Readfield, Andrew McLaughlin of Bangor, Benjamin Carroll of Dixfield, Christopher Glidden of Carroll Plantation, David Lessard of Jackman, Dawson Chauette of Waterboro, Junior Tyler of Farmington, Josh Clark of Brewer, Nathan Bacon of Sidney, Nathan Hilton of Bryant Pond, Robert Stuart of Bridgton, and Colton Carlow of Peru. All who enrolled completed the program, giving this year’s cohort a 100% completion rate.
Most students in the program are hired by contractors even before graduating and this year is no exception.
This year’s class is the fifth since the certificate program launched in 2017. The program, run out of NMCC, has been able to continue operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to rigorous safety protocols and the outdoor nature of most of the training, which involves students operating equipment while communicating with instructors and other students via radios.
The program was jointly developed by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and NMCC with generous support from Milton CAT/CAT Forest Products, Nortrax Inc./John Deere, and other industry partners. Students gain broad knowledge 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. The program also includes a strong emphasis on safety.
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 (PPE). Maine Quality Centers develops and supports skilled in-demand and high wage occupations in Maine through a variety of training opportunities.
While the logging industry has seen some contraction in recent years, the 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.
Anyone with an interest in future enrollment in the MLOP should contact Leah Buck at Northern Maine Community College at 207-768-2768. Information may be found online at https://www.nmcc.edu/industry-customized-training/mechanized-forest-operations/
Additional information including videos on the program may be found on the PLC website at https://maineloggers.com/mechanized-logging-operations-program/
Maine’s loggers are a vital part of the state’s forest products sector, which is worth an estimated $7.7 billion annually. Logging contributed an estimated $619 million to the state economy in 2017.
Founded in 1995 with a handful of members who were concerned about the future of the industry, the PLC has grown steadily to become a statewide trade association which provides independent logging contractors a voice in the rapidly changing forest products industry. Board membership consists of only loggers, making it an organization that is run by loggers on behalf of loggers. PLC members are responsible for 75 percent of the timber that is harvested from Maine’s forests annually.