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By SCOTT BOWLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan Indian Community is transforming a local building into an affordable living and social services facility that will serve participants in its Southern Southeast Alaska Technical Development Center workforce training programs.
KIC is working to have the building that formerly housed Community Connections at 201 Deermount St. substantially completed by March, according to Charles Edwardson, workforce development director of SSEATEC.
The 15,600-square-foot structure is located next to the approximately 20,000 square-foot SSEATEC vocational center on the corner of Stedman and Deermount streets that opened in 2011 and houses the Ketchikan Construction Academy, Safe and Competent Worker and other SSEATEC training programs. The current building also contains a cafeteria and drop-in child care.
The $2.2-million renovation project will result in the adjacent structure having two main components.
Upstairs, the building will have affordable short-term and long-term living units available to training participants on a tuition basis, said Edwardson.
Downstairs, its ground level will house a social services department that can address workforce requirements and issues beyond vocational training, according to Edwardson.
The services will help training participants to clear workplace barriers such as earning a GED, acquiring a drivers license, completing ready-to-work skills assessments and meeting drug-screening requirements.
"The most interesting and unique part of our vocational training center is that it incorporates workforce behaviors that need to be addressed through social services," Edwardson said. "It’s a holistic approach to vocational training."
It’s a key concept that’s largely been missing in workplace development and job placement efforts, according to Edwardson.
"Training is the easy part, the physical plant (facility) is the easy part," he said. "Addressing why people aren’t getting employed, those social barriers need to be addressed. We need to help in that regard."
SSEATEC’s approach of addressing training and employability issues is being looked at by large employers and other training entities in Alaska, he said. There’s interest in developing a state model that incorporates both aspects and results in fully employable individuals who are ready for the workplace.
"I think we've really pinpointed a missing link in job placement and workforce development," Edwardson said. "I really believe that we're going to lead the charge, and we're more than happy to extend our experience out to the broader community."
When completed, the new facility will help SSEATEC reach its primary goal of providing training opportunities for people throughout the region.
The combined two-building facility will be able to accommodate local and visiting trainees at a single site that’s strategically located near other services (market, bus line, recreation center, etc.)
"We finally have the physical plant in southern Southeast Alaska to become a regional training center," Edwardson said. ‘We wanted it to be not only convenient for out-of-town residents, but for our local guys."
The concept of SSEATEC being available to all southern Southeast Alaska residents is the concept that KIC has presented to the State of Alaska, which has responded with funding for the two buildings.
The state has provided $3.3 million for the SSEATEC facilities; $1.1 million for the vocational center and $2.2 million for the building to house the living units and social services.
KIC itself borrowed about $3.5 million to invest in the buildings, which are owned and operated by KIC, and are open to the public.
The combination of state partnership and KIC’s interest in being involved in workforce development is producing results.
"The community is responding by participating and getting trained," Edwardson said.
More than 1,000 participants have been involved in the variety of vocational training opportunities coordinated through the SSEATEC vocational center since the facility opened in 2011.
SSEATEC has partnered with the University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Marine Highway System and industry (such as construction and mining) entities to provide relevant training tailored to specific workforce needs.
Edwardson said SSEATEC and UAS have worked collaboratively to avoid duplicating efforts, and to provide training and courses that compliment each other.
"That is unique, to have a university and a voc-tech center working that closely with such a cooperative spirit," Edwardson said.
It helps to provide the training and workforce development opportunities that Edwardson views as key for allowing any plan of economic development to succeed, no matter what industry is involved in a given community’s economic planning.
"Economic development — I can’t emphasize this enough — will not, can not ... exist without workforce development," he said.
That’s because a common denominator of any economic development plan is the need for qualified people to do the jobs.
"One of the things that is constant throughout every plan is you need the people that stay in the area and fill the jobs," he said. "In turn, they’ll buy a home, start a family, raise a family, put their kids in the schools. That's what economic development is."
The new SSEATEC Client Affordable Living and Education Program building itself is retaking shape after a controlled demolition process that involved a lot of recycling and provided a lot of materials that would not be reused in the rebuilt structure (such as insulation, plumbing, cabinets and windows) to the public.
The metal building’s original framing is being used, and the old roof forms the base for the new, larger roofing system. Trainees also pulled nails and stacked lumber from the previous configuration for use in the new one, according to Edwardson.
"What looked like ... a total destruction of the building really was a controlled method of construction so we could utilize the materials again," Edwardson said.
The renovated structure will be energy efficient, also, he said.
KIC is the general contractor for the project, which involves participants from SSEATEC training programs.
"100 percent of the workforce is from our training programs," Edwardson said. "(There are) two state-registered apprentices, and the rest are from the Safe and Competent Worker series that’s offered at SSEATEC.
The project is providing real-world experience for trainees, he said.
In addition, all of the project subcontractors are local, and the project materials are procured locally, according to Edwardson.
"Our whole concept here is to promote the local economy through economic development," he said. "Economic development is fostered through jobs like this. ... It's a $2.2 million job. The (economic) multiplier effect on this job is going to be very significant for Ketchikan."