Friday is National Manufacturing Day, but you wouldn't expect Maine to be celebrating in the wake of news earlier this week that yet another paper mill is closing down and the state is losing hundreds of jobs.
Still, there was optimism at Southern Maine Community College on Friday as the school cut the ribbon on a new lab it says represents the future of manufacturing in Maine.
One million dollars from a voter-approved bond issue paid for nearly two dozen state-of-the-art machines that will give students skills to find jobs.
According to department chair John Bolduc, there are jobs in a host of fields, including, he says, "from the automotive to aerospace to the medical industry to defense."
Bolduc says while traditional manufacturing jobs may be shrinking, he sees a big need for students trained to work on precision machines and he has employers calling him all the time looking for workers.
It puts students like Alex Beland in an enviable position. He won't graduate until May, but he starts his new job as a machinist next week. His schedule will allow him to stay in school and he avoids the stress of a job hunt.
The program takes 70 students each year. This year, it filled up in 48 hours. Jay Hewett feels lucky he got a spot. A former engineer, he's hoping new skills will lead to work in the aerospace field.
"If there really are that many jobs available, I ought to be able to find something on my terms working part time that I would enjoy doing," Hewett said.
The demand is high, but so are the skills required. Running the machines is a small part of the job. Students need to learn how to design, write code and program the computers.