FAIRFIELD — Workers who lost their jobs at a Jay paper mill after an April explosion can receive free training and classes at Kennebec Valley Community College. The Maine Community College System announced Dec. 18 that displaced mill workers can use funds from a $1 million education fund at either Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield and Hinckley, or Central Maine Community College in Auburn, according to a news release from the college.

Pixelle Specialty Solutions, the owner of the Jay mill, announced the creation of a $1 million education fund for the workers last month.

“These newly displaced workers from the Pixelle Mill in Jay are our neighbors,” said KVCC President Richard Hopper, according to the release. “KVCC has the capacity to help them get the training and skills they need to reenter the workforce in the fields of their choice.” A total of 177 mill workers were displaced as a result of the April explosion. These workers may select one of three educational pathways to pursue, and must enroll no later than July 5.

The available options at the college are:
• Associate degree (two-year program) in more than 35 areas of study (including allied health and nursing, business, early childhood education, and trades and technology),
• Certificate (one-year program) in more than 20 areas of study, and
• Short-term workforce training (one-week to one-month programs) in specific fields related to healthcare, information technology, or technical trades.

According to the release, the former Pixelle workers may decide which college to attend and which program to study based on their career goals and academic interests. Tuition costs, fees and materials will be covered by the Pixelle Education Fund. Information regarding the education fund program was sent to the affected workers by Pixelle last month.

Offering courses to the displaced Pixelle employees also brings the possibility of economic growth for the area by offering expanded opportunities for both local employers and job seekers. Local businesses interested in hiring Maine workers can expand their pool of candidates to those receiving new training through Kennebec Valley Community College, in a variety of industries, like healthcare, welding, and other trades and professions.

Kennebec Valley Community College is one of seven community colleges operating under the authority of the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees, located on a seventy-acre campus in Fairfield, Maine. KVCC offers the lowest tuition in New England, with tuition rates set at $96 per credit hour for Maine residents. There are multiple financial aid options available for prospective and current students, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs, and more. Pixelle Specialty Solutions, based in Pennsylvania, employs approximately 250 people at the Jay mill.

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