Grant provides free tuition to qualifying students for UAA’s fast track career certificate program

A program at the University of Alaska Anchorage aims to get people back on the job — and fast.
Updated: Sep. 30, 2021 at 7:00 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A labor shortage across the country is forcing some businesses to close for several days of the week, or even altogether, but a program at the University of Alaska Anchorage aims to get people back on the job — and fast.

The fast track career certificate program at UAA got its start last year. It’s aimed at helping students acquire new skills to re-enter the workforce, enhance the possibilities of their current career or find a different one.

“We targeted areas where we knew there would be lots of job openings,” said UAA Provost Denise Runge. “So the food service industry, business support and services, many of our healthcare certificates, but even auto, diesel and welding, because so many industries are looking for employees right now. Our most popular program has been bookkeeping, and the demand for bookkeepers in Anchorage is soaring.”

In addition to getting her associate’s degree, bakery and pastry arts student, Rebecca Branin, is also getting a fast track career certificate in pastry arts. She said it’s already helped her gain experience outside of the classroom.

“So it’s just going to show my prospective employers that I’ve been through these courses,” Branin said. “Because of the OEC (Occupational Endorsement Certificate) program and because of Chef Kellie Puff, this summer I did a season at Alyeska in their pastry department.”

Now, because of a grant from the Municipality of Anchorage, qualifying students are able to take advantage of the certificate program at no cost.

“Each student can get up to $18,000. About $9,000 is the typical cost of one of these certificates,” Runge said. “The remainder can go to things like books and supplies, and housing even, if they have those costs that they have to pay.”

The municipality is able to provide the $3 million in funding for the certificate program with money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. It’s enough for several hundred qualifying students to go through the program at no cost to them.

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