Alaska has model job training and employment programs, according to the head of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Earlier this week Secretary Tom Perez visited facilities in Fairbanks and Southcentral Alaska. He said the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer stands out. There, young people learn job skills in areas such as accounting, construction, and nursing.
“When we went to the Job Corps in Palmer, one of my best memories is an employer who has hired over a dozen Job Corps graduates and every single one of them has been a home run for him,” Perez said.
Perez praised the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center, where labor unions and the state of Alaska have partnered up to train pipefitters, laborers, operators, and teamsters. He said he met several veterans there, and, with Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) held a roundtable in Anchorage with others.
“We also met and learned from so many veterans about what we can do to make veterans – who do so much for us day in and day out, defending our nation – can have these pathways to a middle class civilian life where they’re able to realize their highest and best dreams,” Perez said. And we do a lot of work at the Department of Labor to connect that when they’re leaving service to good middle class jobs.”
Part of the business philosophy of Gulliver’s Books in Fairbanks, is to pay employees more than the minimum wage. Perez said a higher wage puts more money into the economy, and makes a middle-class lifestyle possible:
“Because no one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,” he said. “And there are so many Alaskans here who are doing just that. The minimum wage does not sustain a life here in Alaska or across the country and especially with the cost of living here.”
In Anchorage, Perez learned about the job assistance programs offered by Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
Holly Morales is director of the Employment and Training Services department there. She said CITC staff outlined to Perez the comprehensive range of services the agency offers to Alaska Native and American Indian people, helping with everything from bus passes and vouchers for clothing, to training for nurses and iron workers:
“We have a system here where we’re able to consolidate certain funding from federal agencies that allow us to serve that participant with wraparound,” Morales said. “Basically they walk in our door and we provide them with almost all the services they need within our capabilities. We may have to refer them out, but we try to provide they with everything they need to get the job that they want.”
Morales said she welcomes a slight increase in job training funding at the start of the federal fiscal year in October. “There’s always room for opportunity for us to provide more training if we had more dollars,” she said. “Only so much you can do when there’s such high demand. There’s always room for us to provide additional training.”