Industry education provides jobs for graduates

“You really get your foot in the door better when you meet the people who might hire you face to face.”

The University of Alaska is part of a partnership that can give Alaskans good paying, highly skilled, long-term jobs in state.

Process Technology is a two-year program that provides students with the necessary skills and training required of Alaska's oil, gas, mining and power industries. The UA system is only a piece of this statewide partnership.

The program is a product of the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium. APICC partners industry, educational institutions, the community and governmental bodies to reach a common goal: adequately prepare Alaskans for technical jobs in the process industries. These industries include oil, gas, mining, complex food processing, power generation, forest products, water and wastewater treatment.

Industry and educational experts met in August 1999 and determined that many Alaskans don't have the skills needed to get jobs on the North Slope, at power plants, wastewater treatment plants or with companies like British Petroleum Exploration and Williams Energy Services.

Ky Holland, director of Applied Technologies, the department that runs the Process Technology program, says he sees an additional reason why the program is needed.

“The industry is relying on folks who are nearing retirement. There will be a huge shortage of workers and no pipeline of people coming in to meet that need.”

- Advertisement -

APICC decided to change that.

The idea is simple. The process industry experts tell UA what skills are needed for their jobs and UA teaches those skills to interested students. The program is geared toward jobs in Alaska, but the skills taught meet national standards.

Holland says the demand for the program is overwhelming.

“We have more people interested than we have room for at this point,” he said.

So many in fact, Holland says that students have to be placed in related programs. The number of students coming out of the program has to match the reasonable expectation of jobs, he says.

Students in the Process Technology program say having a curriculum designed by the industry experts makes it that much easier to get a job after graduation.

David Dempsey, 19, is finishing his last year in the program.

“It helps as far as getting a job in the in. The curriculum is really focused to what they want,” he said.

Dempsey completed an internship on the North Slope last summer in the position he hopes to have after graduating in May. As a process operator, Dempsey would control an entire chemical process or system of machines.

Dempsey says for his internship he shadowed a process operator, gradually took over some of the operator's duties and, by the end of the four months, could perform most of the necessary duties.

He says the internship is just another great opportunity the Process Technology program provides.

“You really get your foot in the door better when you meet the people who might hire you face to face,” Dempsey said.

For Dempsey, the prospect of earning entry-level pay of $50,000 is another big interest for himself and his wife.

“People work in grunge positions for 15 years to get these jobs and this program gives you an opportunity to leap up to these positions,” he said.

The Process Technology program will graduate its first students in December. Holland expects roughly 20 students to graduate in December and another 20 to graduate in May.