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The future paper makers

For a youthful outlook on an old industry, look no further than the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources. (WGME)

ORONO (WGME) – For a youthful outlook on an old industry, look no further than the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources.

Sage Duguay graduated in May and is heading off to work in a pulp and paper mill.

“I accepted a position in October with packaging corporation of America,” Duguay said. “I’m moving out to Wallula, Washington after graduation and I will be a process engineer either on a paper machine or on a cardboard machine or possibly in their pulp division.”

UMaine students like Duguay have on the job experience at paper mills here in Maine. She says sometimes her career choice needs some explaining.

“It’s hard,” Duguay said. “You’re in college and you tell people you’re in pulp and paper and they tell you ‘well, oh, didn’t we just close five mills in the past four years you’ve been in school?’ And yes, they did but there are other industries that are healthy.”

Duguay went to UMaine Orono on a scholarship from the pulp and paper foundation. Carrie Enos is the president of the non-profit and says the organization has a long history of placing students in jobs in the pulp and paper industry. She says all 23 spring graduates are currently working in the forest products industry.

“I think for a lot of students the reference point is books, magazines and newspapers so they see all of that going away and that’s not the realm they’re used to working in,” Enos said. “So we talk to them about examples that are sort of outside the box.”

Thinking outside the box is what the Maine Forest Products Council is also doing. Executive director Patrick Strauch says the paper makers and foresters of the future will need strong minds rather than strong backs. He says innovation will be the savior of the industry.

“They’re going to have to have more skills in order to survive in this forest economy that’s coming up,” Strauch said. “From loggers to folks who are working in manufacturing facilities; that’s our vision and that’s why we don’t want people to think this is a dying industry when we’re going to have those types of opportunities coming online.”

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