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New Efforts to Train Technicians for Telecom and Industrial Machining

May 20, 2024 | Education, News, Telecom & Tech

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Training in the skilled trades is going high tech. Local telecommunications companies are collaborating on efforts to prepare a workforce to build and maintain networks and hardware, and the state-run vocational school in Seward is rolling out a cross-industry course in machining and maintenance.

Apprenticeship Partnership

The partnership of Matanuska Telecom Association (MTA) and Alaska Communications is meant to address the need for telecom workers across Alaska. The companies are supporting the Alaska Joint Electrical Apprenticeship and Training Trust (AJEATT) administered for the National Electric Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. Commonly referred to as an electrical apprenticeship school, the trust provides hands-on classroom and on-the-job training for a variety of electrical jobs, including telecommunications.

“With a surge of new projects coming to our state, it’s a critical time to grow the telecom workforce in Alaska,” says Matt McConnell, president and CEO of Alaska Communications. “By teaming up with MTA to promote AJEATT, we aim to boost interest and grow the number of highly skilled professionals.”

Michael Burke, CEO of MTA, adds, “This partnership underscores our commitment to keeping jobs in Alaska and entrusting them to our own people.”

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Apprenticeship school consists of a series of eight-week classroom sessions and on-the-job training. Classes are held at the Electrical Training Centers in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Classroom learning is paired with on-the-job training, meaning students become apprentice employees at companies such as Alaska Communications and MTA and receive real workforce experience through the program.

Through MTA, work is available throughout Eagle River, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Interior Alaska. Through Alaska Communications, work is available in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula, and beyond supporting bush communities.

“It’s great to have such strong industry collaboration among thought leaders in the telecommunications industry,” says Melissa Caress, AJEATT statewide training director. “We’re proud to offer a world-class training program tailored to the telecommunications industry and in particular new fiber techniques.”

Industrial Machining

New techniques in machining demand new technicians to maintain the equipment. Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward is launching a cross-industry maintenance and repair training program, starting August 12.

The course called Industrial Machine and Maintenance involves precision measurement, blueprint interpretation, conventional and CNC (computer numeric control) machining processes, and cutting tool and material selection. Hands-on experience in CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) will ensure proficiency in the latest technologies. Supplementary course modules cover 3D modeling, 3D printing, and tool maintenance/repair, seamlessly integrated throughout the term.

“This cross-industry training program fills critical gaps by equipping participants with versatile maintenance and repair skills applicable across various sections,” says AVTEC Director Cathy LeCompte. “Whether it’s manufacturing, mining, maritime, transportation, or oil and gas industries, graduates will be well-prepared to tackle the challenges of maintaining and repairing equipment.”

Labor Commissioner Cathy Muñoz adds that AVTEC is serving the growing demand for skilled technicians capable of maintaining and repairing equipment across different sectors. “This training program not only meets this demand but also empowers individuals to pursue rewarding careers in a variety of fields,” Muñoz says.

Closing the Divide

Telecommunications workers are also in great demand as Alaska builds out its digital networks. “Several telecom megaprojects are underway as part of an unprecedented effort to connect all Alaskans,” says Christine O’Connor, executive director of the Alaska Telecom Association.

Nearly $2 billion in federal broadband funding is earmarked to connect rural Alaska to the internet. MTA was awarded a federal grant to build more than 50 miles of fiber for Tyonek and Beluga, across Cook Inlet from Anchorage. And Alaska Communications’ partners have received more than $100 million so far to build reliable, high-speed fiber broadband in fifteen communities along the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.

“There is a lot of work to do to close the digital divide, and we want to make sure we’re developing the next generation of telecom professionals,” adds Burke.

Apprentices in the AJEATT program receive free schooling and are paid a competitive salary throughout their classroom and on-the-job training. On average, a newly graduated telecom worker through this program will make about $90,000 plus healthcare, paid time off, and a pension.

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