The Maine Wood Products Association secured a $230,000 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission to support the work of the state’s Regional Wood Products Consortium for the next three years.
The grant will be used for workforce development and be dispersed by association partner Northern Forest Center.
The center will work with Maine wood products businesses to identify opportunities such as promoting lean manufacturing principals, implementing new business models, new marketing strategies and more, according to the association.
Collin Miller, the center’s former director of wood products initiatives, was instrumental in networking with government officials to obtain the grant.
“We have a two-pronged approach to how we are trying to help the wood products industry. The first will be infusing innovation in the industry by teaching things like lean manufacturing and mass customization,” Miller says.
“The second will be dealing with the lack of a skilled workforce. We will be taking a look at different businesses and their hiring and training needs and how it relates to the individual companies using the Woodwork Career Alliance Skills Standards.”
Part of the grant will be used to support the center’s creation of a Skilled Workforce Initiative in Maine, a credentialing and training system.
“This part is going to be a challenge because it’s a unique industry in Maine. There are a lot of diverse companies, particularly when you look at woodturning having a lot of roots in Maine with a lot of specialized equipment. It’s also a very historic boatbuilding industry. So it will be difficult to work these skills standards into a highly automated manufacturing sector that also uses very old and traditional methods as well,” says Miller.
Miller emphasizes that the two-tiered approach to spending the funding is necessary because there is no way to tell what the interest and adoption will be from the industry.
“We will definitely push very hard to get this going. We’ve just had great success recently with the credentialing in Vermont. We’ve got our process down and now we’re ready to go into Maine and help some other companies there.”
Contact: Northern Forest Center. Tel: 603-229-0679. www.northernforest.org
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue.