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U.S. Labor Secretary pledges to help Maine loggers address labor shortage

Maine Logging
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
A Canadian log hauling truck travels north towards Canada on Rte. 201, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, near The Forks, Maine.

U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh was in Maine Tuesday for several events, including a tour of a logging operation in Fayette and a discussion with logging contractors who told him about their difficulties finding young people to work in the woods.

Walsh said he'd look into expanding community college training programs for loggers and creating better vocational pathways for high school students. In the past, the state had more than 20 such vocational programs but that number has since been whittled down to five.

"For the last 20-25 years people have been so focused on college and not on careers like logging. And there's an opportunity here to really earn a living and raise a family. So, you think about logging - I probably thought about maybe firewood and wood for a home but there's so much more to it - energy, creating electricity and so many other things - so, it's really been an amazing day," Walsh said.

A recent study suggests Maine will need 2,000 additional loggers and truckers to support the industry in the next ten years.

Walsh met with loggers at the request of Democratic Congressman Jared Golden who accompanied him to Fayette. Golden said he and other members of Maine's congressional delegation are also working to secure additional funding for a loggers' apprenticeship program that has been helpful to the industry in Maine.