Five youths, age 17 to 20, recently graduated from a three-month course in advanced construction at the University of Alaska Southeast.
The course was funded by an $85,000 state workforce investment grant awarded to the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority.
Graduates Gary Johnson, Vanessa Pazar, Dave Weston, Larry Marsden and Bob Boorman were congratulated by Alaska first lady Nancy Murkowski at the Governor's House on April 17.
Many of the graduates had family members there that day. Also in the audience were agency staff from the Southeast Regional Resource Center and the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, which sponsored the program, in which the graduates earned GEDs and gained initial construction skills.
"Each of these kids worked hard in this class. They all showed up on time, with a positive attitude and were prepared to learn," said Marquam George, assistant professor of construction technology at UAS and instructor in the Advanced Construction Education program.
He noted that in addition to possessing hands-on knowledge of a variety of construction techniques, the graduates proved they could pass the state test required to become a licensed residential building contractor.
"I wanted to make sure that these kids will have several options open to them," he said.
Following a brief transition period, the ACE graduates will begin a 9-month apprenticeship with THRHA, working with seasoned carpenters. Those who have proven successful will be offered full-time employment with the housing authority.
"In time, I see the ACE graduates acting as positive role models for youth in their home communities and a source of hope and pride for people throughout Southeast Alaska," said Blake Kazama, executive director of THRHA.