This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:
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Anyone who has scanned the help-wanted ads in recent years knows that nurses and other health care workers are in high demand. There's good money to be made, but the jobs aren't for everyone. For many, a college degree is a barrier they cannot afford to overcome.
For many, financial constraints or family obligations require that they take their training and get on the job a lot faster than a four-year college degree will allow. Or maybe they're more mechanically inclined than academically interested.
A recent report from the Alaska Department of Labor says there is a good future for those workers, too.
The department's report, "Focus Jobs: Alaska, 2004 to 2014," shows Alaska employers will add more than 4,000 new positions by 2014 in fields traditionally filled by vocational training graduates or on-the-job trainees.
Those jobs will be spread among auto and aircraft mechanics and technicians, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, construction equipment operators, construction laborers, truck drivers, maintenance and repair workers, and other skilled trades.
Add in the turnover from retirements and others who leave the profession, and the department estimates there will be 9,000 job openings in those skilled trades by 2014. If the North Slope gas line is under way by then, there will be even more.
All the more reason for the Anchorage School District, the state, the construction industry and trade unions to do two things: 1. Continue with their work in vocational education training; and 2. Expand their work in voc ed training programs.
That means state funding for the after-school program at the School District's King Career Center.
It means unions and contractors working together on job training programs.
And it means active recruiting programs to attract students to sign up for training - high school dropouts, high school graduates and young and middle-age adults looking for a new career.
With several thousand job openings in the next few years, it's time to get to work.