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Manufacturing Success Story

 Fast Track to New Skills Program in Maine Churns Out Machine Operators

By Kerri Pepoy, Staff Writer, Sun Journal
Thursday, February 23,2023

Photo by Abe Kreworuka Leon Burgess and Kempton Smith, Jr. work on computer terminals, while Charles Lincicum; directs learning programs in the mobile learning lab.

PARIS, Maine – When Jim Osborne found it tough to find a job in Maine, he took a leap of faith.

"This is a whole new field for me," the 43-year-old Bridgton resident said as he worked on a computer-based machine module. "Initially, it was scary."

Being a machine operator is far different from media broadcasting, the field that Osborne worked in for many years. But when he and his wife, Christine, moved to Maine from Montana a year ago to be near her family, the state’s job market lacked prospects.

Osborne, a Gulf War veteran originally from Ohio, said he grew tired of "twiddling my thumbs and throwing my resume everywhere." He signed up for a new training program that will teach him to be a machine operator.

"I can’t wait to do the actual job," he said. Chris Wiken, a Sumner resident who was laid off from his job at a log home manufacturer, agreed. "I’ve done surprisingly well as I’ve gone through the different steps," he said as he worked on a computer-based calculator.

The program, Machine Operator Skills Training, started in Maine on Feb. 8 but will soon spread to the other five New England states.

The mobile training center is a 40-foot recreational vehicle parked outside the CareerCenter in Paris. Nine students, who are currently unemployed, will graduate Friday and then move on to a 60-day probationary period at Maine Machine Products Co. in South Paris. They will receive paid on-the-job training and become full-time machine operators if they complete it successfully.

The company, a precision custom manufacturer of components and assemblies for high-tech markets, will treat the graduates to a plant tour and pizza lunch this week.

The MOST program is run by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the decline of manufacturing in the United States. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership receives federal and state funding, and the MOST training was made possible by a Department of Labor grant.

Maine is the first New England state to provide the MOST program, explained Charlie Lincicum, a project manager for the partnership, who’s overseeing the training in Paris. Through 80 hours of curriculum, students learn various computer-based machine operating skills and take classes in subjects such as basic math and blueprint reading.

Lincicum said the training could help address a national shortage of machinists, a trend that he said has forced American manufacturers to send some jobs overseas.

For example, Lincicum said there is a shortage of 44,000 machinists in Massachusetts, where he normally works for the partnership.

"There is a shortfall," he said. "This is a fast track into that field."

Keeping some of those jobs in America was one aspect of the training that hit home with Osborne. "It’s about keeping the ‘Made in America’ label," he said.


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