Federal grant to bolster Alaska’s aviation, health care apprenticeships

The first of Bering Air’s new planes touches down in Wales. The airline expects all eight caravans to be flying by November. (Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM)
A Bering Air plane touches down in Wales. (Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM)

A newly-awarded U.S. Department of Labor grant aims to bolster Alaska’s health care and aviation industries.

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The grant will increase the use of apprenticeships, which the state hopes will increase the chances of companies hiring locally.

“It’s been a priority project of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board and the administration to utilize the apprenticeship model to increase employment, resident employment in a lot of industries that end up hiring from out of state and just generally provide career pathways, so we can better move Alaskans into careers,” Ed Flanagan, director of employment and training services for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said.

The $1,019,985 grant focuses on two different industries – health care and aviation.

Flanagan says, the health care aspect is particularly important, since the industry is still expected to grow despite tough economic times.

“Particularly community health workers, which is a new, emerging occupation to coordinate care, reduce costs and reduce readmissions to hospitals and just generally improve the system,” he said.

According to data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the health care and social assistance sector is projected to add more than 7,000 jobs by 2024.

And, in rural areas, Flanagan says jobs within the aviation industry – like air dispatchers – can also be localized.

“They’re bringing them up to Kotzebue from Anchorage, two weeks on, two weeks off,” he said. “Well maybe somebody in Kotzebue could be trained up through apprenticeship to have that job, and it would be a great local job in their own economy.”

By using apprenticeship programs – which combine on-the-job training and classroom instruction – Flanagan says more Alaskans will be qualified to work in the industries.

“We’ve gotta do everything we can, and apprenticeship just seems to provide a really good opportunity to get folks on the first ladder and beyond into these careers that are generally good-paying jobs, generally with benefits, and are a family-wage job,” he said.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is coordinating with the local industry groups Alaska Primary Care Association and Alaska Air Carriers Association to expand apprenticeship opportunities in the state.

The grant also aims to reduce Alaska’s unemployment rate – which, as of September, stands at 6.9 percent.

Josh is the Statewide Morning News Reporter/Producer for Alaska Public Media | jedge (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8455 | About Josh

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