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Alaska Forum Launches Environmental Technician Apprenticeship Program

The Alaska Forum Inc., the non-profit behind the Alaska Forum on the Environment, will launch a new Environmental Technician apprenticeship program on February 7, 2011.  The program is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Alaska Department of Labor & Workforce Development Office of Apprenticeship is providing initial grant funding for the development and administration of the program.  The program’s official debut coincides with the opening day of the Alaska Forum on the Environment conference at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage.

This unique apprenticeship program will help develop an Alaskan workforce for environmental field work and data collection.  One of the program goals is to recruit applicants from rural communities where large development projects are proposed or where federal clean-up programs are ongoing; allowing individuals in local communities an opportunity to participate in the fieldwork while receiving on-the-job training and gaining competence as an environmental technician.

Since the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, Alaskans have wanted to see more Alaskans employed in development projects around the state.  The Alaska Forum's Environmental Apprenticeship Program will help build a locally trained and competitive workforce that can participate in all phases of these projects and assist industry with local hire objectives.  The mission of the Alaska Forum on the Environment, "Alaskans working together to promote a clean, healthy environment through communication and education,” is an ideal fit to fulfill the educational component of the program.

The Alaska Forum enlisted the participation of local environmental consulting firms to assist with the development of the curriculum and provide the on-the-job training.  AECOM, CH2M Hill, Environmental Management, Inc., Oasis Environmental, Weston, and Umiaq, LLC, are the program’s initial employer partners and have been instrumental in bringing the program to fruition.

The course of study for the Environmental Technician Apprentice includes classroom instruction and 4,000 hours of learning on-the-job -- an equivalent of two years of study.  The classes will include courses in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER); the North Slope Training Cooperative (NSTC); field safety, bear awareness, Geographic Information System (GIS) usage and mapping; shipping and logistics; leadership; environmental management; applied environmental science; introduction to geology; air quality and climate change fundamentals; water and wastewater fundamentals; waste management; aircraft safety; and First Aid.  Apprentices will be certified as Environmental Technicians upon completion of the program.

The program will be rolled-out and applications available at the Alaska Forum on the Environment conference.  The week-long conference begins Monday February 7, 2011 in Anchorage at the Dena'ina Convention Center.  A large number of conference participants are from rural Alaska, which provides a link to a likely pool of applicants for the program.  The application deadline is March 15.  The Alaska Forum’s executive director Kurt Eilo is planning to start the program with a dozen apprentices.  The apprentices selected for the program will begin their classroom training this spring--in time for firms to hire summer field workers and begin their on-the-job training.  At a minimum, applicants must be at least 18 years old; have a high school diploma, GED, or certificate of completion; be an Alaska resident for the last 12 consecutive months; have a valid Alaska driver's license (or the ability to obtain one); pass a pre-employment drug and alcohol test; and may be subject to a criminal background check.

Starting wage for apprentices is approximately $15 per hour for on-the-job training.  Successful candidates can expect to earn about $25 per hour after they've completed the two-year program.  Participating employers like the idea of creating a pool of skilled technicians, especially if the pool of workers includes individuals from rural areas in Alaska where the work is being done, for temporary and longer term positions.   They are contributing to the local economy and directly assisting in the development of a skilled Alaskan workforce.  Employers and candidates interested in participating in this program can go to http://akforum.com for more information.

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