Maine’s congressional delegation has reintroduced legislation to allow owners of small logging businesses to train teenage family members to work in the industry.
The Future Logging Careers Act would allow training for family members who are age 16 or 17.
It would address a big issue in Maine’s forest industry — an aging workforce and lack of young workers to replace them. The state’s industry leaders say expanding or maintaining workforce levels is the biggest challenge they face.
The labor shortage in the logging industry is reaching a crisis point, with an estimated 2,000 loggers and heavy-duty truckers — about a third of the industry’s workforce — reaching retirement age in the next eight years, according to a recent University of Southern Maine study.
Currently, 16- and 17-year-olds cannot work in logging, even under parental supervision. The legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to allow teens an opportunity to get experience in a family business in the industry, while still prohibiting use of dangerous equipment, like chainsaws.
The Future Logging Careers Act, which also was before Congress in 2019, was reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine 2nd District. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 1st District, are co-sponsors. Delegation members, in a joint news release, noted that the industry is made up of small family-run operations and also relies on heavy equipment that requires a year or more of training.
Dana Doran, executive director of Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said the legislation is necessary and will ensure that the businesses can sustain themselves for the long term.
King said the legislation would allow young people to get hands-on experience in the field alongside their parents or grandparents. “This is a bill that supports Maine families, strengthens this fundamental Maine industry, and enhances the long-term skills of Maine’s forest products workforce,” he said.
“Our bipartisan bill will allow young Mainers to start their careers as loggers earlier — as long as they’re under the supervision of family members — providing logging businesses with needed labor and young Mainers with a good start for a career in the woods,” said Golden.