Program prepares workers for marine jobs

Goal is to train and hire Alaskans for shipyard positions

Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2004

KETCHIKAN - Jacob Case is studying to be a marine industrial coater in an apprenticeship program geared to provide Alaska Ship & Drydock the skilled workers it needs.

Case signed on with Alaska Ship & Drydock as a laborer at the Ketchikan Shipyard nine months ago. Now, he's the first shipyard worker in the marine industrial coater apprenticeship program developed by ASD and the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan.

During the next three years, Case will get about 6,000 hours of classroom and worksite training under the supervision of a journeyman-level marine coater.

John Fraley, UAS Ketchikan's training coordinator at the shipyard, said the goal of the program is to train Alaskans, hire Alaskans, and keep them working. In addition, training young people like Case will help the industry over time, he said.

"We're trying to get more programs for youth because the mean age of a shipyard worker is 46," Fraley said. "That's rather old to a lot of industry standards. So we're trying to get youth involved in shipbuilding and ship repair."

Ship repair and construction involves a range of industrial processes that require skilled labor. But the ASD has had difficulty finding enough qualified workers to fill jobs.

Shipyards in the Lower 48 also are outsourcing more and more specialty work to non-shipyard subcontractors, said ASD Project Manager Doug Ward. But Ward said in Alaska there is not much of a diverse contracting base to draw from.

The labor problem prompted ASD and UAS Ketchikan to develop the training program. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Labor provided a $500,000 grant to create the program.

The apprenticeship for marine industrial coatings is the first full apprenticeship developed through the program. Based on National Shipbuilding Research Project standards, the apprenticeship was approved by the U.S. Department of Labor in November and is the first of its kind in the country, according to the university.

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