Region 9 School of Applied Technology forestry student Robert McPherson watches as students cut 8- by 8-foot cants on the school’s new band sawmill in Mexico on Monday.
MEXICO — High school forestry students from around the state gathered at Region 9 School of Applied Technology along with a crowd of paper and logging industry representatives Monday to hear Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, talk about his proposals to improve the industry.
King has created two federal grant programs to rebuild Maine’s economy and provide more money for equipment to train students.
“(Career and technical education courses are) much more important, I think, than they were 30 years ago because of the higher level of technology that is involved in any job,” King said. “What we are seeing is an escalation in the technology and the knowledge necessary to work in the woods.”
The day when you could go into the woods with a chain saw and spike boots are gone, King said. You must have the technological skills to use the equipment that “these guys are learning how to use and that’s what’s going to make all the difference.”
The state’s four high school logging programs were all represented at the gathering: Region 2 from the Dyer Brook area (near Bangor), the Oxford Hills program, the Mount Blue program (in Farmington) and Region 9.
“We only have four left, so we’ve got to make sure they continue because they are the backbone (of the logging industry),” said Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.
“These programs in our industry, even in tough times right now, need better training for those that are coming into the industry,” Doran said. “Unless those individuals are trained on highly advanced modern equipment, they’re not prepared to walk into jobs where they want them to be job-ready.”
Region 9 forestry instructor Mark Beaudoin said a portable band sawmill the school bought this year with the help of a state grant was the first piece of equipment bought for the school since 1999. Students use the portable sawmill to saw 8- by 8-foot cants to build skidder bridges for brook crossings on Wagner paper company land, Beaudoin said.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, speaks Monday with four career and technical education logging programs from Region 2 near Bangor, the Oxford Hills program, the Mount Blue program in Farmington and Region 9 in Mexico.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, talks with Kyle Colby, a forestry student at Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico on Monday.