Manufacturing companies seek workers

Finding the right employees and enough of them is one of the top issues on the minds of managers at the region’s industrial and manufacturing companies.

Dozens of job-seekers came to a manufacturing job fair held at the Presque Isle Career Center to get a sense of whether they might be a fit with companies like McCain Foods, J.D. Irving, Lucerne Farms and Porvair Filtration.

“Both in our woodlands and our sawmill, we’re looking for anything from entry-level to skilled trades,” said Doug Cyr, human resources manager with Irving Woodlands, which was hiring for its Nashville Plantation sawmill and vast forestlands.

“We have a challenge when it comes to the skilled trades,” Cyr said. “There’s a lot of employers around in the industrial space. We’re all looking for the same trades: industrial electricians, industrial millwrights, boiler operators. There’s a few of them out there and they’re all working.”

The shortage of workers and the older age of the current workforce leaves Cyr and others wondering: “Where’s the next generation come from? That’s the big question.”

On the woodlands side of the business, Cyr said the company is looking forward to the first cohort of graduates from the new mechanized logging training program being offered by three Maine community colleges, including Northern Maine Community College. The company has also been training its own pool of mechanized harvesting contractors.

McCain Foods in Easton is also trying hard to find qualified workers.

Robert Kilcollins, a fryer operator, was volunteering during the job fair to convince job-seekers to think about working at the french fry and processed potato plant. The company was listing openings in process sanitation, inspection, forklift driving and fryer operation, hourly positions with hourly pay ranging from $13.75 to $17.25.

“It’s a team effort. If people try out these positions, see how they can grow within. There’s a lot of room for growth,” he said.

Kilcollins has been with the company for five years, though initially didn’t expect to be there long, as he has a degree in early childhood education and previously worked with the family auto repair business.

“I just took this job on a whim because my wife and I were having our first son and I needed benefits. I took it for something temporary and ended up being blown away with the opportunity,” he said.

Cyr, of Irving, said that the forest products sector also offers opportunities for advancement, and that most of the company’s job vacancies are created by employees moving upward.

“You might come in as a laborer in the sticker machine, then you get promoted to stacker operator, then you get promoted to trimmer operator.”

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