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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
Students from Ketchikan High School and from several schools on Prince of Wales Island attended the Alaska Construction and Maritime Career Day at the Ketchikan shipyard on Thursday.
The program, in its fifth year in Ketchikan, is sponsored by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Civil Rights Office. Doug Ward, the director of shipyard development with shipyard operator Vigor Alaska, said the event is meant to provide career awareness for high school students, and to expose them to jobs in construction.
“It’s not every day that kids in Ketchikan get into the shipyard and actually get to have real hands-on experience,” Ward said.
Those hands-on activities included welding, electrical wiring, spike driving, surveying, carpentry and drilling. Nearly 150 junior and senior students were also given a tour of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Columbia, and were able to get inside a United States Coast Guard Response Boat.
On the ferry, there were different booths the students could visit — like the University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Marine Lines, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and AVTECH Alaska Maritime Training Center.
Some of the students in attendance were Kayhi juniors Brenden Hurt, Collette Rhein, Brendan Wong, and senior Danice Garcia. Rhein and Hurt enjoyed the welding station, and both Wong and Garcia said it opened their eyes on what jobs are available in Ketchikan, and what’s it like to work at Vigor.
“I learned about how there’s a lot of different job opportunities you can go do without actually going to college,” Rhein said, “and (you don’t need to) get a higher education in order to get a good job and make enough money.”
Sierra Callis, the workforce development and government affairs professional at Vigor, said several people have applied after attending the career day in the past. Off the top of her head, she said they have five employees of two years or more as a result of events like it.
“Our industry is built on people who come in with little to no skill,” Callis said, “and so it’s perfect for a high school graduate who really doesn’t have any work experiences but wants to start. We’re super, overly willing to train anybody who’s willing to learn.”
“It’s shows our young kids that we have opportunities for careers in our community not just summer jobs,” she added. “It opens their eyes to what we actually do and what impact we have on Alaska.”
According to information from the Alaska Construction and Maritime Career Day webpage, Alaska is facing a “critical shortage of workers in the construction fields.”
Data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development seems to support this, as it shows that construction jobs — ranging from construction managers to laborers and related construction workers — have a low growth rate and a moderate to very high employment outlook.
“I think it’s really important to developing the resources we have and keeping students in Alaska for these careers,” said Matt deLaBruere, with the Alaska DOT and Public Facilities Civil Rights Office.