A new University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus program hopes to hatch some graduates in the next few years who are ready to start work in Southeast hatcheries and fisheries.
The new Fisheries Technology program - which starts next month - offers students a chance to earn an associate's degree or a certificate in the field. Such a degree would practically guarantee graduates seasonal employment in fisheries and hatcheries throughout Southeast, said instructor Gary Freitag.
At a recent Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Freitag, who is also the research and evaluation manager for the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association, said there is a great need in the industry for trained technicians.
Carol Denton, the program's project facilitator, agreed. She said in a telephone interview that the demand for people in this field is "considerable."
"We know that last summer both the Forest Service and Fish and Game had a very difficult time finding technicians," Denton said.
At this point, technicians most often are hired through state job service programs and are trained on the job, a set-up that is not optimal, she said.
"When you have to start from zero and build all the skills and knowledge ... it takes a considerable amount of time and effort," she said.
The program is funded through the Sustainable Salmon Fund, which was part of the U.S.-Canada Salmon Treaty. The fund is meant to help offset restrictions on the fishing industry, and part of the fund is earmarked for education purposes.