Alaska's health care industry continues to grow

Alaska’s population has grown to more than 710,000, an increase of about 13 percent since 2000 when we had about 627,000 residents. In addition to other needs, more people mean a greater need for health care as we are all potential customers.

A greater number of Alaskans are over age 65 – currently about 55,000 – and that number is predicted to increase by an astounding 127 percent by 2034.

In the last decade, the health care industry created 10,000 new jobs in Alaska, more than any other industry. Based on two factors — the increase in our population and the rise in the number who are 65-plus — we expect the number of health care jobs to grow 26 percent from 2008 to 2018, the current 10- year forecast period.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is focusing on the human pipeline we’ll need to fill the jobs in this expanding industry.

The department is holding a Healthcare and Human Services Job Fair in Anchorage on Friday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the University Center Mall, with more than 70 employers and training representatives.

The Alaska Health Workforce Planning Coalition developed the Alaska Health Workforce Plan, which is available at The plan, the result of a year-long industry-led effort with involvement from education and government, is a consensus of the strategies necessary to meet Alaska’s need for more health care workers.

The Alaska Workforce Investment Board is further developing the Health Workforce Plan under a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration. The outcome will include support for career pathways for students and adults (including dislocated workers), industry skill standards for high schools, entry into postsecondary education, and various credentials and licensing.

Health care provides jobs at every level of training and education, most with a clear path for advancement. For example, a certified nurse assistant can become a licensed practical nurse and then a registered nurse, with the appropriate education and training.

Even in Alaska’s smallest rural communities, where jobs are often scarce, health care offers year-round employment opportunities.

The University of Alaska system offers more than 90 health programs statewide in allied health, public health, nutrition and dietetics, behavioral health, health information and management, medical billing and coding, nursing, and nurse practitioner. Partnership programs with other universities include medicine, pharmacy, physician assistant, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology. About half these programs use online or other technology-based learning. UA now awards more than 800 health-related degrees each year.

AVTEC–Alaska’s Institute of Technology, part of the Alaska Department of Labor, offers health care related training at its Allied Health Campus in Anchorage, including certified nursing assistant and licensed practical nurse. The eight-week CNA program certifies 120 graduates each year, and the 10-month LPN program produces 20. Both programs have a 100 percent placement rate.

Under a new partnership with Cook Inlet Tribal Council, AVTEC will provide training for careers in the health care industry, including medical coding and billing specialist, CNA, and LPN.

To meet employer demand, the Alaska Department of Labor will continue to develop ways to help Alaskans pursue careers in this growing industry.

04/12/2012 - 9:14am