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Ketchikan is on the cutting edge.
This week Vigor Alaska opened the Ketchikan shipyard to the first-ever Southeast Alaska Construction Career Day; the first in the nation to be held at a construction site.
About 200 high school students from throughout the southern part of the region attended, all outfitted with hard hats and safety vests, and at times all lined up in rows of chairs as if in a classroom. A classroom it was, but a classroom created for the occasion at an actual business.
This might have been the most important opportunity the students experienced in their high-school careers, getting a glimpse in person at the possible lines of construction-related employment. It was no longer in their imaginations; it was putting a hand on construction tools and using them — lighting welding torches, cutting metal, sealing joints, wiring switches.
The experience focused on maritime and construction jobs — the type of work likely to be available in Ketchikan and the region for some time. And, if not here, elsewhere. In particular, construction skills are sought throughout the state, the nation, and the world. One thing or another always has to be built or rebuilt.
The career day also provided teachers throughout the region with the chance to see the shipyard and perhaps other possible places of employment and talk with business owners and operators. It is important that school districts tailor their workforce training to what the businesses and industry need.
The relationship between the schools and businesses like Vigor Alaska is vital for both. The schools see their students succeed, the students find themselves employable in jobs they want, and businesses have a source of future employees trained how they recommend.
It means young people who want to stay and work in Southeast can, and it saves employers the expense of importing people who might or might turn out to like it in Ketchikan.
A Federal Highway Association grant paid for the event, but the state Department of Transportation, the Alaska Marine Highway System and the University of Alaska should be commended for joining forces in providing the career day here. AMHS even helped out with transporting students from out to town to the event, enabling greater attendance.
This is an exemplary example of the government and private enterprise working together to build Alaska. This is preparing for the future of the state and its young people.
Ketchikan is proud to have been involved.