Voices of Alaska: University of Alaska provides Alaskans with affordable workforce training

  • By FRED VILLA
  • Sunday, April 15, 2018 10:02am
  • Opinion

As the primary provider of the state’s workforce, the University of Alaska is identifying more affordable ways to educate Alaskans. Alaskans often think of our state as a place where we can secure a good paying job without higher education credentials or certifications, but that’s less and less the case. By 2025, 65 percent of jobs in Alaska will require some post-secondary credential. Alaska’s economy is changing and so is the University of Alaska.

We’re starting with the career and technical education opportunities available through the university for those looking for a job as a welder, as a nurse aide, a corrections officer, to refine bookkeeping or basic carpentry skills or to fill other critical positions in Alaska communities. The University of Alaska’s occupational endorsement programs are specifically designed to provide these skill-building courses.

To make these training opportunities more accessible and affordable, beginning fall 2018, UA will reduce tuition by 25 percent on selected occupational endorsement programs and career and technical education (CTE) courses. The tuition reduction will apply to more than 300 courses in 50 programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and University of Alaska Southeast, including community campuses. Open registration for fall 2018 begins on April 16 and continues throughout the summer. The reduced tuition is part of the university’s plan to meet Alaska’s workforce needs by growing enrollment and increasing degree completion.

The tuition reduction will be applied on a course-by-course basis. For example, if a lower division course tuition is $212 per credit, the reduction will be $53 per credit. Anyone interested can find a complete list of eligible courses and programs across the university system at www.alaska.edu/starthere/cte.

Occupational endorsements (OEs) are designed for students to develop industry-specific knowledge and skill sets in 30 credit hours or less. An occupational endorsement provides a short study track for a specific occupation, and opens the door for students to decide whether to continue their education toward a certificate or more advanced degree.

These courses are designed to assist professionals in honing their current skill set or embarking upon new career paths. Many courses can be taken online to accommodate working Alaskans. Occupational endorsements are unique in that they do not require students to complete the entirety of the university’s core course requirements, meaning students need fewer credits to finish a program.

Programs also provide high school students with opportunities for dual enrollment, education that can be a first step into the workforce or into a university program once a student graduates from high school. Through an occupational endorsement, high school students can graduate having also earned a recognition of achievement from the University of Alaska.

Local employers have many different needs, and in education or job training there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Many occupational endorsement programs offered throughout the state are the product of direct collaboration with local employers and the Alaska Workforce Investment Board, reflecting industry priorities and regional training demands.

We value this type of collaboration to ensure newly trained or retrained workers learn the appropriate skills to move up within their companies or their industries. Collaboration allows the university to adapt to emerging industries and anticipate the training that will be needed for future projects and workforce needs.

The university continually is looking toward the future, adapting and finding ways in which to make education accessible and affordable. These programs are designed to fit the future needs of employers, wage earners and industry. UA celebrated its centennial year in 2017, and we look forward to growing Alaska’s skilled workforce for another 100 years and beyond.

Fred Villa is the associate vice president of workforce programs at the University of Alaska.

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