Some college students in Maine are stepping outside their classrooms and back into the woods. Following the footsteps of the forest workers before them, they’re among a new wave of loggers, who are trading in axes for high tech machines. Source: CBS News
In East Millinocket, Maine, industry leaders hope these graduates can return the logging industry to its glory days.
“We are in beautiful downtown TA-R7,” says Donald Burr, the head coordinator of the Mechanized Logging Operators Programs.
TA-R7 is what the professionals call this plot of forest, in the middle of Maine, where the deep woods serve as a classroom for the state’s next generation of loggers.
“We are giving them, as students, the very foundation of what it takes to be logger,” Burr said.
Ben Tuttle is a student in the new mechanized logging program through Northern Maine Community College.
His dad is a logger – and he fell in love with the trade as a kid. “The cool equipment and how big it was and just being in the woods.”
The logging business today is a far cry from the lumberjacks of yesteryear, and it’s at a critical turning point.
In the digital age, demand for paper has dropped dramatically and Senator Angus King says Maine’s forest industry has taken a major hit.
To keep it alive, he’s counting on a process called cross laminated timber.
Logging is now done with high-tech machinery and GPS systems, which require extra training.
“There’s a lot of acres, millions of acres, in wood – and that’s a lot of money, waiting for that next product,” says Burr.
While it’s not what it used to be, logging is still a multi-billion dollar industry in Maine with a shortage of workers.
And students here are hoping to put down roots.
Without this 12-week program, training usually takes a year and will cost companies about $100,000 to train each future logger.