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Maine Community College System

News Release

For Immediate Release: January 22, 2003
CONTACT: Alice Kirkpatrick
Tel: (207) 767-0116, ext. 3

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine - Following a wave of announcements of plant closings and dislocations across the State over the past year, Maine's seven technical colleges are seeing a jump in enrollment of dislocated workers returning to college to prepare for new careers. Over 760 students - about twice the number seen in past years - are dislocated workers, representing one in ten students enrolled at the colleges this spring.

With the recent news from Great Northern Paper, the colleges - particularly Eastern Maine Technical College in Bangor and its East Millinocket center, Katahdin Region Higher Education Center - are bracing for more as about 1,200 layoff notices go out this week from the paper company. And Maine's manufacturing sector took another blow yesterday when Pratt & Whitney announced that it was laying off 91 employees.

"These numbers are a stark reminder that Maine's economy is still in the midst of a major transition," said Maine Technical College System President John Fitzsimmons. "Thousands have lost their jobs due to the lure of foreign companies paying low wages. While we cannot stem that economic tide, we can and we must help these workers retool for new careers," he said.

"Clearly, this surge in enrollment shows that Maine workers fully understand that college is their best hope for a new career and economic stability," he said.

Fitzsimmons noted that the agreement signed today between the Maine Technical College System and Maine Adult Education Association will help strengthen the transition into college for dislocated workers - and others who need additional academic preparation to enter and be successful in college.

According to the Maine Department of Labor, in the past two years alone, over 16,000 workers have lost their jobs due to plant closings or reductions at 327 companies as a result of foreign competition.

Along with Great Northern, Eastern Maine Technical College is seeing former workers from Guilford, Pride Manufacturing, Dexter Shoe, GE-Bangor, Osram Sylvania, Microdyne, and others. About 208 EMTC students are dislocated workers. Of those, 150 are enrolled at the Katahdin Center, and staff are expecting at least another 300 this spring.

Kennebec Valley Technical College in Fairfield and Central Maine Technical College in Auburn each have about 100 displaced workers enrolled this spring - including former workers from Hathaway, Sanmina/SCI, Huhtamaki, Dexter, Ames and others.

Over 150 dislocated workers are enrolled at Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland - from Sappi, Ames, Biddeford Textile, Sears, and dislocations from other parts of the state. As the largest college in the seven-college system, SMTC offers a number of unique programs that tend to attract students from throughout Maine.

Washington County Technical College in Calais reports that over 88 students - about a quarter of their degree enrollment - are dislocated workers. Most are from Georgia Pacific and a handful of aquaculture firms. The college is also seeing students attending with support from the Fishermen's Retraining Act.

York County Technical College in Wells has 85 dislocated workers - the majority former workers at Vishay Sprague. Northern Maine Technical College in Presque Isle has at least 21 dislocated workers enrolled this spring.