Biddeford Center of Technology director Paulette Bonneau points out the attributes of a new wing to be built behind Tiger Gym on the Maplewood Avenue campus that will provide space for three new programs and the expansion of two existing programs. The architectural drawings were prepared by Leah Schaffer of Mobile Studio Design of Biddeford. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce + Industry director Jim LaBelle said the phrase he hears most often from members is “where are my next employees coming from?”

Employers could use more workers today — and know they will need more in the future, as more and more baby boomers are hitting the retirement mark.

Soon there will be three new programs and two expanded ones at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology, funded through a $7 million state grant. The expansion — a new two-story wing to be built at the back of Tiger Gym — will allow the regional technology school to offer courses in culinary arts, tourism and hospitality, and athletic training. The new programs offer opportunities to educate 96 additional students — that’s not counting the expansion of plumbing and emergency medical services training to increase student slots in those programs by more than half, and opportunities for others to learn as well, through adult education classes.

Biddeford Regional Center of Technology Emergency Medical Services instructor Rory Putnam, left, talks with Senator-elect Henry Ingwersen about the expansion of the program. during an announcement on Monday, Nov. 14. The BRCOT plumbing program will be expanded as well, and three new programs, culinary arts, tourism and hospitality and athletic training will be added in a new wing. Biddeford has been awarded $7 million in state funding for the expansion. Tammy Wells Photo

“This is going to be outstanding for us; it’s a dream come true,” said Biddeford School Superintendent Jeremy Ray. “This has been a long time coming, and the kids are thrilled.”

Biddeford School Department officials formally announced the plan on Monday, Nov. 14.

BRCOT Director Paulette Bonneau wrote the successful grant. She noted current programs are integrated and the new ones will be too.


“A student involved in the business programs can benefit from this,” she said of the tourism and hospitality piece — just as students in plumbing and electrical programs today become involved in plumbing and wiring a home under construction by residential carpentry students.

She pointed out current students work as interns in the community, gaining on the job experience. And they receive college credits, as well.

Outgoing Maine Speaker of the House and Biddeford Rep. Ryan Fecteau said there has long been a need for increased investment in career and technical education; and he noted when he began as a legislator eight years ago, there had not been a capital investment in CTE since 1998, when $5 million was injected into the system.

A longtime proponent of career and technical education, outgoing Maine House Speaker and Biddeford Rep. Ryan Fecteau was among those attending the Monday announcement of a $7 million grant that will allow construction of a new wing to provide new programs and the expansion of some existing ones at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology. Tammy Wells Photo

“These 29 schools (statewide) prepare the next generation of our workforce,” he said. Fecteau noted he sponsored a CTE bill in 2015 that failed and another in 2017 that also failed. In 2019, a bill he sponsored that “reached across the aisle” and achieved bipartisan support was approved. That, combined with Gov. Janet Mills’ injection of $20 million brings a total of $40 million into the system statewide.

“These are investments in our young people,” Fecteau said. And not only does completing the programs lead to jobs that pay well, but they can also lead to entrepreneurship, he noted, with graduates starting their own businesses.

Ray noted BRCOT, built in 1969, has undergone a couple of building renovations over time. School leaders had first looked at adding a culinary program in 2013, but that did not materialize. In later years, the school department had explored off-campus locations, as space became a consideration. In the end, an on-campus solution emerged.


“We’ve outgrown a building that wasn’t full 10 years ago,” Ray said.

BRCOT provides career and technical education to students from Biddeford, Dayton, Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk, and some in the Massabesic school system, he said.

Biddeford native Mayor Alan Casavant said he remembers looking out the window of his Biddeford High School classroom as a student and watching the BRCOT being built.

This is an architectural drawing of the new, two story wing that will accommodate three new programs and the expansion of two existing ones at Biddeford Regional Center of Technology. Tammy Wells Photo

Casavant said the injection of $7 million “has been coming a long time coming, and it really makes me feel good.”

Among those attending the news conference was Jim Godbout, owner of Jim Godbout Plumbing and Heating in Biddeford. Godbout estimated he has hired at least nine permanent employees who have completed programs at the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology — some have been with the company for 20 years — and said he is looking forward to hiring more.

“There is a huge need,” said Godbout, who employs more than 70 people. He noted many of his employees are in their 50s and 60s, and he counted seven in their 70s.


LaBelle, of the chamber of commerce, noted the hospitality and culinary piece is not only good for nearby coastal communities, the traditional tourism hotspots — but for Biddeford as well, which has become a new mecca for the restaurant industry.

Rory Putnam, who teaches emergency medical services at BRCOT along with other teaching gigs, said there is a tremendous need across Maine for trained personnel in the industry — he continues to work in the field part-time.

He said the program at BRCOT is a great way to get students interested in careers early on.

Currently, Putnam has 11 students in the EMT program and another 11 in the medical sciences program — there is no room in the current classroom for more. The expansion will allow him to have 16 in each program, he estimated.

Joining in at the news conference were representatives of York County Community College in Wells and Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. Both noted that students who complete programs at BRCOT often continue their education, earning associate degrees at the two community colleges.

The target date for opening the new wing is the fall of 2024. Ray said the school department hopes to break ground in the spring. He said the $7 million grant is designed to pay construction costs and for some equipment for the new programs.

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