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MEMA Expands Technical Education Center

The Maine Energy Marketers Technical Education Center (MTEC) in Brunswick, Maine, celebrated a grand opening for its $250,000 state-of-the-art expansion, which doubles student capacity and helps meet a growing need in Maine for professional heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians.

“The trades are hot right now,” Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association, said in a phone interview after the November grand opening. “The new stuff that’s coming out, technology-wise, for our industry is fabulous, so we’ve got to make sure kids know that. We spend a lot of time spreading the gospel, spreading the word that [this] is a great industry to be in. We get about one bus a week from the high schools, [students] in to see the facility.”

The enlarged, enhanced education center offers “a beautiful hands-on opportunity for the kids to learn about new technologies as well as old,” Py said. “They’re going to go out and face old technology as well. They need to what’s out there.”

The grand opening featured the Maine Energy Marketers Association’s famous Energy Trades Monster Grill Truck serving food for all. MEMA members, industry partners, students, elected officials, and MTEC staff were in attendance to celebrate the culmination of a year’s worth of time and effort, and to discuss the school’s economic and community impact.

With nearly all Maine businesses and residences relying on heating and cooling systems, employment opportunities for MTEC graduates are plentiful, Py said. Virtually all graduates obtain jobs after graduation, and many are offered jobs even before they graduate, Py said at the Oct. 26 event.

The expansion included creations of a separate hands-on propane training space, Py said. The expansion also made it possible for the school to hire a second instructor.

“MEMA members decided to take workforce development matters into their own hands and created a program that produces qualified candidates,” said Py. “These are good-paying jobs in communities all across the state. As we enter the winter season, it’s paramount to our industry that when home and business owners need a technician, a qualified one is available.”

“We spent $500,000 building the original school 10 years ago. Due to demand and modern equipment innovations, our industry stepped up again by building an addition to expand the program,” said Mike Estes, owner, Estes Oil & Propane in York, Maine. “The new area will support our best-in-class teaching professionals and unmatched hands-on training program for today’s and tomorrow’s HVAC technicians. We hire them, so it is essential that students have the best training.”

“Anyone that wants to get into this line of work should really think about coming to MTEC because it really opens up a lot of doors,” said Wayne Doyle, former student and now hiring manager at Downeast Energy.

The expansion project, among other things, added 1,400 square feet of lab space. The original lab was 2,400 square feet. The building, including three classrooms, now measures about 5,100 square feet said Hannah Estes, business manager for the association. Senior Instructor Bryan Champagne oversaw the project and installation of equipment.

MEMA hopes the additional capacity and expanded training environment will develop a pipeline of high school graduates and veterans transitioning to civilian life, as well as provide a lifeline to technicians entering the school from troubled Maine industries. Annually, MTEC trains about 300 students in various classes, including 100 full-time students in a semester-long course called HVACPRO, a 500-hour course that covers plumbing, oil, propane, and air conditioning.

MTEC is a member-financed trade school and a 501(C)(3) nonprofit Education Foundation.

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