Grant allows district to reinstate petroleum career program

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has received a $20,000 grant that will help in the school district’s goal to extend their broaden their approach past traditional classrooms.

The grant, awarded at the end of 2017, was one of seven new grants from the Vocational Fund for Alaska’s Future grant programs under the umbrella of the Alaska Community Foundation and the Kenai Peninsula Foundation. The funds are being used by the district to offer classes at the Alaska Petroleum Academy in Kenai to high school students.

“What that means is that our students are able to earn industry level certifications,” said Superintendent Sean Dusek during last week’s Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum’s Workforce Panel. “Hazwoper, Confined Space Entry certifications — those type of things that are very pertinent to kids working in those particular industries. We’re really re-amping up those efforts in anticipation of the gas line.”

Dusek said that, as projects such as the Alaska gasline LNG further develop employers grow, it’s important to focus “quite a bit” on career and technical education.

“A lot of the things now do require post-secondary training and education for students in high need, high quality jobs,” Dusek said. “We all know that, and we’re trying to really partner with a lot of different entities to provide those meaningful opportunities…to really get kids ready for life.”

The district was able to offer classes at the Alaska Petroleum Academy in the past, but had to suspend the program. The Alaska Community Foundation grant has allowed the district to reinstate their partnership with the Alaska Petroleum Academy.

“Vocational and technical training are critical needs in Alaska’s communities, particularly those in rural areas, where the desire for locals to provide skilled labor for resource development projects is especially important,” said Katie St. John, the director of programs and grants with Alaska Community Foundation. “These (grants) will positively impact the competitiveness of our statewide economy and the resilience of our communities by helping provide a homegrown workforce where it is needed.”

The Alaska Petroleum Academy was founded in May 2014 and is operated by owner and senior instructor Mike Gallagher. Before it was Alaska Petroleum Academy, the business operated under different owners as Arctic Training Safety Consulting.

“We’ve been working with the school district for quite a while,” Gallagher said. “What we’re doing is we’re getting the seniors the certifications at entry level and advanced levels. Whether it’s into heavy industry, environmental or construction… It gives them a sharper edge, just being new to the job market.”

Gallagher said he works with the district to offer the district the opportunity to offer his training courses to students who may not otherwise have the funds to take the courses.

”Normally, with something like this, one of these kids couldn’t afford to do this,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher grew up in the area and went to Kenai Central High School and said that when he was first starting out in the oil industry, he found it difficult to find the training he needed.

“I just got it by banging on doors, got hired to push a broom, promoted to a shovel and then a sledgehammer,” Gallagher said. “But, we’ve seen that giving them the entry level certifications gives them the edge on the job market. The school district has really led the way with this. My hat is off the the school district for really taking the lead in trying to get the seniors prepared for the job market.”

The Alaska Petroleum Academy is located in Kenai and offers a variety of courses, including 16 Hour Petroleum Health & Safety, 24 Hour CITS Certification, 40 Hour Hazwoper Certification and Confined Space Entry Certification. Gallagher said that they are “always adding.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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