North Slope program offers education for employment

Concentrated summer study helps Barrow residents land jobs

Posted: Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BARROW - The summer may mean that the North Slope schools are quieter than usual, but that is not the case at the Savaat Employment Center in Barrow.

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A one-stop shop for jobs and education, the Savaat rooms are bustling with students who have come to complete their GED or study English as a second language.

Connie Rodgers, an outreach employee and an ESL and math teacher at the Savaat center, said an upward trend in hiring requirements has drawn more students to seek completion of a GED or to acquire additional skills.

Barrow is home to the Arctic Slope Native Corp., Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp. and several of its subsidiaries, the North Slope Borough, a hospital, bank, school, community college, science center and many more places of potential employment. The oil industry supplies a plethora of employment opportunities with options for advancement and skills training. But despite the wide array of options, employment doesn't come easy to residents of the Slope.

"Jobs that didn't used to require a GED or high school diploma now do because of technology," Rodgers said. "As technology becomes more advanced, so do the requirements. Even the requirements for a GED have become more stringent."

This is the second year that the center has offered students a concentrated summer study camp, using the Plato program for completing their high school requirements or furthering their education.

Plato is a national program that suits students with an individual study plan appropriate to their level and is based on a series of two required tests the students take prior to beginning class work.

This summer, 16 students from villages around the North Slope are attending the program, intended primarily for students 18 and older.

The motto behind the program and GED classes at the Savaat Center is "learn by doing," according to Rodgers. With the individualized programs, students can focus on their difficulties and help one another with their strengths.

Summer study camp gives students the opportunity to meet other students from their village and create study groups where they help one another.

Many of the books in the program have been written with Alaska Native adults in mind. The text and pictures teach students writing and math skills, using subjects familiar to them from their every day lives, such as fishing, hunting and community.

The justice system, as part of the parole program, now requires that parolees take the GED program to make job hunting easier for people with a record of conviction.

The good news for people interested in completing their GEDs is that the program at the Savaat Center is the only program in Alaska that does not charge for participation.

As part of the effort to prepare North Slope residents for a quickly advancing world of employment, Irving J. Igtanloc, the workforce development coordinator at the Savaat Center, has been working on a preliminary draft of a plan to gear elementary school-age students toward careers of their choice at an early age.

Igtanloc's goal is to expose students to their career options early on and help them come up with a plan to work toward their goals.

But in many cases, these opportunities are not evident to students - or seem unachievable to students who have not acquired the skills or background during their school years.

That is why Igtanloc hopes to share his plan, once completed, with as many organizations as possible, including local businesses, corporations, oil companies, medical facilities and others.

With their cooperation, Igtanloc foresees creating a package to be taken around to students in Barrow and the surrounding villages. It will include slide show presentations of the various fields of employment. In addition, he hopes the organizations will offer field trips and internship programs that will expose young students to what lies ahead and how they can plan a course that will take them in the direction of their field of interest.

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