Colorfully decorated caps declare these nursing graduates' future plans during Northern Maine Community College's commencement Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Presque Isle. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Today’s workforce faces numerous challenges, but Northern Maine Community College’s graduating class is well prepared to meet them, commencement speaker Daryl Boucher said Saturday.

Boucher was one of the speakers to honor more than 180 students who earned degrees in liberal studies, business, medical services, nursing and trades, including building and electrical construction, diesel hydraulics, automotives and plumbing and heating.

Northern Maine Community College President Timothy Crowley congratulates Kassidi Hanson during commencement exercises Saturday in Presque Isle. Hanson received a business administration degree. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

“It’s tough out there,” Boucher said, referring to employee shortages, supply chain delays, business closures and other challenges that workers face. “What we have for a workforce today is the best it’s going to be for at least a decade.”

The number of aging and retiring workers is increasing, while the number of young people entering the workforce is declining. But the career preparation graduates have received at Northern Maine Community College is invaluable and can take them anywhere they want to go, he said.

Northern Maine Community College graduates are engulfed in a sea of confetti as Saturday’s commencement ceremony in Presque Isle concludes. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

Aroostook County needs local workers, and the college is working toward a solution by being part of the Northern Maine Growth Initiative, Boucher said.

The initiative was formed to invite new Mainers — including refugees and foreign workers — to work in Aroostook County by offering them resources, housing and support to build lives for them and their families.

“I hope you choose to stay local, because Maine needs you now more than ever. But if you choose to work away, you’ll always be part of the Aroostook County and NMCC families.”

College President Timothy Crowley presented Dennis Dyer, lead commercial driver’s license program instructor and coordinator, with the 2023 President’s Award for his dedication to growing the program across Maine.

Dyer has worked as an instructor and led the college’s Commercial Driving Academy for 23 years. The program has expanded to offer instruction in Wells and Bangor, and includes students in the mechanized logging program.  

David Williams (left) gets a handshake from Northern Maine College President Timothy Crowley during May 13 commencement exercises in Presque Isle. Williams earned a degree in electrical construction and maintenance. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

A highlight of the ceremony was the appearance of the college’s chorus, which performed the national anthem and the song “Have It All.” The group was led by 40-year music teaching veteran Vicki King, who earned her certificate in building technology Saturday.

Music was also offered by pianist Corinne Lovejoy and bagpipers Johnny Carpenter and Scott Heney.

Owen Martin of Caribou, who earned his degree in electrical construction and maintenance, was the class speaker. Martin is also the local campus’ 2023 Student of the Year.

New graduates of Northern Maine Community College turn their tassels during commencement Saturday in Presque Isle. Credit: Paula Brewer / The Star-Herald

Student of the Year recipients are selected by faculty and staff for their academic success and their campus and community involvement. Martin received a John and Jana Lapoint Leadership Award in the amount of $1,000.

Joyce Maker, chair of the Maine Community College System Board of Trustees, also addressed the graduates and families.

A reception at The Forum followed the commencement ceremony.