New program brings Fairbanks students and unions together

Fairbanks students have a new way to get into the workforce. The school district has teamed up with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community and Technical College to bring secondary students Partnerships to Pathways, a state-funded program that ensures collaboration and training for these students to further education in postsecondary classes or get started in work or apprenticeships immediately after high school.

These partnerships with the district expand to various workforce entities and labor unions to get students involved in work early.

Karen Gaborik, assistant superintendant for secondary schools, said this has been a good opportunity for the community and has brought the district into looking at postsecondary options for students while getting counselors and principals involved.

“Everyone has the broader picture,” she said.

She said the best partnership has been with UAF CTC and the school district. A big part of this effort is developing mutual advisory committees between the technical college and district to give a “K-16 perspective.” Another focus is to develop process technology and health occupation pathways that start in high school.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development put in $43,400 to fund the program. The idea is to develop partnerships between the state, schools and labor organizations to get students ready for work. The program also helps ensure that high school guidance counselors understand the program and can better advise students about the Career Technical Education program, or CTE.

Peggy Carlson, executive director for the curriculum and instruction for the school district, said the program has been a great success so far. She said the community understands the importance of getting students into a working environment and many have helped out.

The CTE program began after workforce development studies indicated the state cannot meet its workforce demands, particularly in trades areas. The state determined that better methods of preparing students for work were needed. This led to recognition for cooperative needs between the Labor and Education departments.

This led to Alaska Career and Technical Education Plan, or CTE, of which Pathways to Partnerships is a part.

CTE also builds from the “Alaska Gasline Inducement Act Training Strategic Plan” by the Alaska Workforce Development Board in 2008 and the “Alaska Education Plan” adopted by the Board of Education and Early Development in 2009.

The CTE plan addresses the individual students’ needs for career preparedness with certain goals in mind.

Carlson said four labor organizations have joined the program, those of electrical, plumbers, operating engineers and carpenters. Each union has a goal of two students per year and one of those categories is way ahead. Students Michael Reynolds of Ben Eielson High School and Ryan Graham Taylor of Lathrop High School have even been accepted into apprenticeships for the Alaska Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Trust.

“This is an amazing program. It gives students like myself an opportunity that would otherwise never be available. I’m excited and thankful to be accepted into this program,” Reynolds said in a release.

“I didn’t know this is what I wanted to do until this year,” said Graham Taylor. “I met a guy at my mom’s work and he had been in the IBEW for over 40 years and talked about his excellent retirement and career, and this got me looking at unions. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I don’t have to look for a job now! I don’t know what to say, I’m happy, very happy! Basketball was the only reason I was going to go to college, and I’m happy about this.”

Gaborik said students must fulfill a list of requirement for apprenticeship eligibility, such as a high grade point average, teacher references and completing certain courses like algebra. She said the result is a big advantage t the students because it gives them a leg up in these competitive apprenticeships that adults are also seeking.

The second CTE goal of strengthening the curriculum is moving along the public comments for the drafts are being reviewed with an adoption expected this month. The drafts include new courses and study programs for health science.

CTE also seeks to disseminate programs and options to staff and students. Administrators recently met and counselors were given instruction in the plan to aid this effort.

The biggest barrier to the project during the last quarter was determined to be the short time frame in which the school district had to get approval for supplies and material purchases. The district is continuing to work with the Alaska Workforce Investment Board for approvals. All grant funds are expected to be expended if approval is given.

A letter from UAF CTC Interim Dean Michele Stalder dated April 9 states that $5,277 has been used for two faculty members for participating on the program advisory committee and assisting with development and site visits. Another $24,128 went to CTC career advisors and a financial aid coordinator. The year-to-date match/cost-share is $32,202.

Gaborik said there’s room for advancements as the programs continue. The district would like to expand apprenticeships as well as outreaches to students and parents. She said they would also like to strengthen partnerships with the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center and Alaska Works Partnership.

Updated: 
11/08/2016 - 11:48am

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