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says Suzanne McCarthy, Alaska Laborers Training School statewide coordinator. In 2015, for example, McCarthy says there was a lot of road construction and apprentices were able to get in a significant amount of training in that field. Perhaps another year will have more pipeline-related work or more utility work. Two projects important to the union have helped apprentices gain a variety of needed skills—the construction of two new training schools in Fairbanks and Chugiak. The new Chugiak school site provided excellent training opportunities over the past three years. On a ten-acre site, it’s has three classrooms equipped with SmartBoards and Winked walls (erasable whiteboards). The facility has computerized training that helps apprentices learn about site-plan modeling, software programs for temporary traffic designs and mapping out grade and elevation on projects. The facility also has two large shops, one of which has a dirt floor so students can practice digging, trenching, and other operations during the winter months. To accommodate Laborers attending training from other regions of the state, the Chugiak school can sleep twenty-six stu-

dents and has an on-site kitchen and dining hall that seats up to forty-eight students at a time. But one of the most beneficial aspects at the new facility is space. With ten acres, the school can offer several different skills-based trainings and scenario set-ups at the same time. Apprentices also worked to build a new school at the Laborers Training School’s Fairbanks location. The school is an addition to existing training facilities. McCarthy says the two-story building is about 15,700 square feet, plus a 5,600-squarefoot shop/classroom building and a second 6,000-square-foot shop—all on the roughly three acres.

This Year’s Application Deadline Looms McCarthy says the school is gearing up for its 2016 interview process. “While we accept applications year-round, the deadline for this season is set for March 31,” she says. “Individuals seeking an apprenticeship for this year should apply before that time.” Those who are selected will be trained and put to work during the coming construction season. Once an apprentice candidate is selected

for the program, they go on the work roster and are placed on a construction job when work becomes available. Apprentice wages start at 60 percent of journeyman Laborers’ wages (currently $29.79 an hour), Piekarski says. Apprentices are reviewed and evaluated after one thousand hours or work, resulting in a 10 percent wage increase— provided they keep yup with training and are satisfactorily increasing their skill level. “We look for evaluations from their experience on the job to help determine whether they get their pay increase,” Piekarski says. Both schools employ four people as staff/instructors and have a roster of journeymen who come in to teach part-time, generally for one to three weeks at a time. Training is a critical part of ensuring the workforce is highly skilled and qualified for work, McCarthy says. The schools provide both skill-based training and industry certification that allows apprentices and other union members to come in and complete classes for needed certification. Members are not charged for training, says McCarthy, adding, “They might not have to make a payment, but they have to make a commitment.”  R

Alaska Laborers Union Apprentices learning rigging and hoisting. Photo courtesy of Alaska Laborers Union

March 2016 | Alaska Business Monthly


Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  
Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  

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