At 39, this former millworker is starting a new career as a firefighter

May 17, 2017

BUCKSPORT, Maine — Ryan Pickoski was a fourth-generation paper millworker in Bucksport when his world turned upside down almost three years ago.

His great-grandfather, both grandfathers, one of his grandmothers, his father and his uncle all worked at the Bucksport mill, which changed hands many times over the decades and most recently was operated by Verso Paper Corp.

“I always thought I’d retire from the mill,” he said.

But that plan was dashed in December 2014 when, 15 years into Pickoski’s career, Verso shuttered the mill, citing high production costs and a weak demand for the lightweight coated paper made there.

“My whole life changed,” Pickoski said.

But now, less than three years after losing his job to the Verso paper mill closure, Pickoski is embarking on a new career as a firefighter.

On Friday, he received his associate degree in fire science technology from Eastern Maine Community College, with some help from federally funded retraining programs administered by the Maine Department of Labor. Read more»