Maine facing skilled worker shortage

PORTLAND (WGME) – One of the trade fields experiencing the biggest backlog for customers in Maine is plumbing, heating and cooling technicians.

One program in high school, one in college; both have been bringing in new teachers to address a literal pipeline problem, people can’t find a plumber.

“Every place around here says, ‘three or more weeks,’ even if some of it is just basic plumbing jobs,” P.A.T.H.S. Plumbing, HVAC Teacher Paul Chapin said.

At the plumbing and HVAC program at Portland Arts and Technology High School, teacher Paul Chapin is hoping his training takes students to new heights in their careers.

“There’s just such a huge call for HVAC technicians; plumbers as well,” Chapin said.

The HVAC and plumbing fields are both dealing in energy, fluid movement and black iron pipe, but also needing training and certification in things like a scissor lift.

“You never know what you’re going to be doing,” Chapin said. “Every day is something different. I’ve seen parts of Portland where people have lived their whole lives that they will never see. I’ve been on rooftops on beautiful days. You walk up to a piece of equipment that didn’t work when you got there and when you leave it’s working. It’s a good feeling.”

That tangible sense of accomplishment is one of the best parts of the job, Chapin says, which is why he was initially reluctant to leave the private sector to become a teacher.

Chapin is only graduating 14 seniors in his 2-year program this year, and he says students from the 19 sending schools in southern Maine aren’t always aware of the program.