FAIRFIELD — A new academic program in joinery — the art of putting wood together without nails — is being developed at Kennebec Valley Community College funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The grant, announced Monday, will also help expand the college’s medical assisting and mental health programs, said President Richard Hopper.

The joinery program, Sustainable Timber Frame Design/Build, will likely launch in the 2015-2016 school year, Hopper said Monday.

“One of Maine’s greatest natural assets, other than the ocean, are our forests,” said Hopper. “Industries that we’ve traditionally seen here have been paper making, pulp and other paper products, and we were looking to see where the labor market was most inclined to grow.”

He said that the school wants to “build a program that emphasized a particular skill that’s increasing in demand, and there has been a trend towards timber frame construction in many areas.”

The grant is part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, a federal program to help community colleges and other institutions of higher education expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less.

KVCC recently expanded its campus to include new sustainable agriculture and culinary arts programs at it’s Harold Alfond Campus, located at the site of the former Good Will-Hinckley School. With funding from a $150,000 grant from the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust, the school began researching jobs related to forestry products before applying for the grant, Hooper said.

“We want to position KVCC graduates in areas where the job market is growing, and what we found is that there is growth in the production of forest products,” he said. “People that go through this program can go into any number of professions, from design to construction to joinery.”

It will take about a year to develop the program, including construction of a joinery lab on the Harold Alfond Campus, hiring faculty, developing a curriculum and securing approval from the state community college system.

Sustainable Timber Frame Design/Build will be a two-year program that will also incorporate computer aided design, heating and air conditioning and sustainable energy systems. Students will be able to earn an associate degree in applied science.

The grant will also create at least five new faculty and staff positions on campus, said Hopper.

In addition to the new sustainable timber frame program, which is expected to enroll about 25 students in its first year, the grant money will be directed at expanding the number of students in the college’s mental health and medical assisting programs. That will include making updates to the laboratories used by the medical assisting program, which trains medical assistants to work in physician’s offices doing things like providing patient care and education, obtaining and collecting biological specimens, gathering patient history and helping physicians with physical assessments.

“This allows us to make those investments and changes to our infrastructure,” said Hopper. “They are important investments to make in the college to make sure we have everything we need to provide the highest quality of education.”

The school enrolls 23 full-time medical assisting students and 60 full-time students studying mental health. The goal is to double the number of students enrolled in medical assisting and increase by half the number of students in mental health over the next three years, said Hopper.

More than $450 million in grants to community colleges were awarded Monday through the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“The nearly $2.5 million investment in Maine colleges announced today will help prepare local workers with the skills needed for in-demand careers and advance the role of community colleges as engines of economic growth,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in the release. “Over the last four years, the U.S. Department of Labor has invested nearly $21 million in Maine — part of a long-term commitment to ensure that workers have access to training for the specific skills employers need to stay competitive in the global economy.”

U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King also announced the grant in a separate release.

“This grant represents an important investment in the development of Maine’s workforce,” said the senators in a joint statement. “The funding will bolster Kennebec Valley Community College’s effort to provide displaced workers in Kennebec, Knox and Somerset Counties with the skills they need to find a new job.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

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Twitter: @rachel_ohm