Tech and the Next Generation of Loggers

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine -- 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. 

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 notes.

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 eqipment 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.  "Which is timber put together in a certain way which makes it super strong and you can build 8 and 10 story buildings out of it and it be as strong as steel."

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 private cost companies about $100,000 to train each future logger.

(Kenneth Craig, CBS News)


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