In-demand fields like HVAC provide options for displaced paper mill workers

Job training after layoff

BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Julie Raboniwitz from the Department of Labor says the sooner her department knows about a layoff, the better.

Paper machine number three at the Verso mill in Jay hasn't been running since January, so the state started working with temporarily laid off employees back then.

Rabinowitz says the former verso employees are trade certified, so they qualify for a program that will pay for them to retrain in another field. The only stipulation is that they have to pick an in-demand field of work to pursue.

Rabinowitz says 70 out of the 120 that lost their jobs are currently enrolled in training programs in fields like health care and culinary arts.

Another profession that has a need for qualified workers is heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC.

Maine Energy Marketers Association in Brunswick is a nonprofit trade association that offers a 450 hour intensive HVAC course in its training facility. They say they've already trained former mill workers, and they're happy to train more.

"We've had people from Bath Iron Works, from Verso paper, from many different fields that have disappeared over the years," says Bryan Champagne, Senior Instructor at the training center.

The nonprofit training facility he teaches at boasts a 95 percent placement rate, and Champagne says the need is only growing. He says a lot of employees in the HVAC industry are retirement age, and skilled workers are needed to step into those jobs.

It's an option that has worked out for other former paper mill employees who have taken advantage of the retraining programs offered by the state.

"Madison was the last one," says CEO and President of Maine Energy Marketers Association, Jamie Py. "The transition team went with the state folks and said look, this is an opportunity. It's not necessarily for everybody, but come take a look at what we do. I think we got about eight or nine people from that program."

Switching careers can be challenging, but those who are willing to get their hands dirty here are learning skills that trainers say will be useful for decades to come.

"We're expanding different offerings we have at the school and making sure we have an eye on the future," says Py. "When you come here, you have something you can do for the next 30 years."

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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