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Courtesy of ABC of Alaska

Preparing Workers with Basic Construction Training While hundreds of Alaskans are taking part in apprenticeship programs each year, for some residents an apprenticeship is more of a commitment than they need. Perhaps a high-school graduate seeking a career path needs to first learn more about the field he or she is interested in before deciding if that’s the best choice. Or maybe an electrician could boost his or her skills by learning how to weld. That’s where Alaska Construction Academies (ACA) comes in. The group offers free basic construction training in Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Juneau, and Ketchikan. Started to Fill a Shortage

Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska Apprentice Sinakone Phonsarang.

tions and is preparing this year to begin offering them as part of their training curriculum again. Cartier, who recently got certified to do performance evaluations herself, says that should be in place in the next six months. “We need to get more performance evaluators on board,” she says. The performance evaluations allow people taking classes through NCCER to be listed on a national registry, giving their work credentials portability around the nation to any job that recognizes NCCER certifications.

Cost Covered by Most Employers Like other apprenticeships in the state, the cost of training is generally free for apprentices—save for the $50 application fee that pays for entry into the program and the initial interview process. “We started a trust about five years ago,” says Sibert. “The money from the employer goes into a trust to pay for our certification classes.” About 90 percent of employer members cover the cost of the apprentice training, she says. That’s the $165 placement fee and $95 per month, per apprentice going through the program. In the five years that Sibert has led the organization, the apprenticeship program has grown from about 100 apprentices to the 340 going through the program currently. Sibert says they hope to expand the program further, and to one day build a training center. She says they’ve come a long way for a program that, when it was created, no one believed would succeed, adding: “We’ve worked really hard to improve the program.” 38

The leaders of Associated General Contractors of Alaska (AGC) created the group in 2006 in an effort to train more people for the residential construction industry. At the time, building contractors were having a hard time finding skilled workers because schools had cancelled industrial arts classes, parents weren’t pushing their children to work in trades, and young workers were entering the workforce without knowledge of how to read a tape measure or use power tools. ACA provides both high school and adult education by contracting with school districts to teach high school students and by working with industry trainers to provide adult education at communities around the state. “What we’re doing is primarily funding pre-apprenticeships,” says ACA Executive Director Kathleen Castle. Castle says 2015 was a record year for ACA. There were about 500 adults in classes around the state, she says, and between 5,500 and 6,000 high school students who took a construction-related class.

Building Better Applicants

ACA has a $225,000 contract with the Anchorage School District to help provide construction courses in the district’s grade 9-12 program. The district’s King Career Center has an electrical class and a carpentry class this year, Castle says. Students finish the class with credit through NCCER. “A person who comes out of a high-school program with some NCCER background can then articulate that,” Castle says. She explains that the student could go to AVTEC, the state-run vocational and technical school in Seward, or could apply to ABC of Alaska to enter their apprenticeship program and they’d get credit for the classes they’ve already completed. “We also have articulation agreements with a couple of the union apprenticeship programs to give extra points on their application

for students who come to them with NCCER [courses] already on their card,” Castle says. The students might have already taken courses in tool identification, construction math, or other basic skills. “It kind of helps build the foundation for the tools they would need,” she says.

Training and Re-Training Adults

ACA also partners with Alaska Works Partnership to teach construction-related courses such as welding, drywall, and electrical, as well as short-term certifications such as the ten-hour federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration class some employers require, or forklift safety certification. The instruction is funded by the state, Castle says. Adults have to apply to take a course or certification, and must supply a resume, take a basic math test, and, once a slot in the training program becomes available, they must pass a drug test. Castle says the average age of adults taking ACA courses is thirty-four. “We have a real variety of people who apply for our adult classes,” she says. “Maybe someone from the food industry wants to do something different or maybe someone in the welding field wants to learn more electrical skills.”

Training for Rural Alaskans

AGC President John MacKinnon says ACA has partnered with the state to fill some training niches that make it easier for rural Alaskans to do their jobs. Two years ago, the state partnered with the Operating Engineers Local 302, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (ADOT&PF), and the Denali Commission to offer week-long training sessions for ADOT&PF contractors who maintain rural Alaska airports. The state has around 250 airports and many are in villages. The rural airports are generally maintained by a single person who contracts with ADOT&PF to plow snow in winter and maintain the runway yearround, using ADOT&PF equipment to do so. The contractors were invited to the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center for an intense training session that focused on equipment operation and maintenance, MacKinnon says. “It was a very successful program. During the course of this, the dozens of people who have been trained are now available to work on local construction projects,” he says. The training was paid for through Denali Commission funds, which have since dried up. But people who went through the training have since been able to get work with road contractors or other construction crews that work in their area. MacKinnon says ACA training is ideal for adults living in rural Alaska who want to im-

Alaska Business Monthly | March 2016www.akbizmag.com

Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  

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Alaska Business Monthly March 2016  

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