BOWDOINHAM, Maine — When the only plumber in Jackman retired, leaving the town’s 862 people with no alternative nearer than 50 miles away, things got desperate enough that the town offered a $2,000 scholarship for anyone willing to learn the trade and stay.
“It can sometimes take weeks until we can find someone to respond,” said local school principal Denise Plante. “And it can be worse in spring when plumbers are busy opening up lake camps and cottages.”
The scholarship is funded by a local family who has run a summer camp in the area.
Towns across Maine, which has the oldest population in the nation, face challenges keeping up with services as tradesmen retire and are not replaced by younger workers. In Jackman, where close to one in five residents is age 65 or older, a rate above the state average, the problem is more acute.
As local paper mills and manufacturers have moved away, more young people have left the central Maine town near the Canadian border, limiting the supply of new tradesmen. But Plante said Jackman residents are patient, giving interested apprentice plumbers until March to apply for the scholarship.
“It can be difficult to find someone, and even when you do, the quality of the work isn’t always the best,” said Plante, adding, “Are you interested?”