Classes train mine workers

Coeur, UAS, state, Native corporations prepare local workers for Kensington

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

To earn locally some workers might consider learning locally.

The University of Alaska Southeast has teamed up with Coeur Alaska, the state Department of Labor and multiple Native corporations to train local workers for construction of the $125 million Kensington Mine near Berners Bay.

A six-week Introduction to Industrial Training course is in its third week at the downtown UAS Technical Education Center. Students attend class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. learning about construction safety, rigging, concrete forming, heavy framing, steel work, first aid and more.

"That's been kind of our first role, to work with the employer, work with the business partners and work force development, and then to put on some training so that there's an opportunity for jobs," said Marquam George, UAS assistant professor of construction technology.

George said safety is a major aspect of the course. Being prepared for the responsibilities is another major focus, he said.

"Any time you have a remote operation, if you're five minutes late the boat isn't going to wait for you. So we're working really hard on job-ready skills," George said.

Charlie Ross, also an assistant professor of construction technology, said he is running the class on a strict basis to get the students ready for the working conditions they will face in the future.

"What we've been hearing from employers all over the state is that they want to hire Alaskans, but what we need to do is get these people where they are going to be on time, job-ready and that type of thing."

Students pay $990 for the course and are not Coeur Alaska employees - at least not yet.

"No one has a guaranteed job when they come out of this training, but most certainly I think they will be in a better position having gone through it," George said.

Ross said he is impressed with the cooperative effort between all the groups involved to ensure Alaskans are working on the local job. About 300 workers are estimated to work on the mine at the peak of construction before its projected completion in early 2007. About 100 people are working on the site now.

Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School has also joined with UAS to help better future employment opportunities for locals. Five Yaakoosge Daakahidi students are enrolled in the program.

"It's awesome. I get to learn a lot of cool stuff," said William Evenson, who was out in the rain Tuesday learning how to do building layouts. "I've learned a lot, and it's good for stepping into a career."

Evenson, who dropped out of high school in 10th grade, also will have a chance to earn his diploma with the completion of this course in addition to his other schoolwork.

He said this gives him an opportunity to learn outside of books.

"That's also great, but when you learn something with your hands and you get familiar with it then you can understand different ways about the learning process," Evenson said.

UAS is also planning on teaching more classes to ready workers for possible employment at the Kensington Mine. The university is working on the details for a four-week "new miner training program" that will possibly begin in January, George said.

He said this type of education is important to the region.

"This seems to be a really large job coming on within our region and it would a real shame if we weren't ready with applicants ready with the training, or the jobs are going to go to someone down south," George said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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