Alaska Job Corps welcomes the national director at biannual workforce summit
The event gave students an opportunity to meet with potential future employers in their field of study
PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Job Corps Center held its first biannual workforce summit since the beginning of the pandemic last Thursday. Around 90 employers joined students and faculty for a luncheon in the gymnasium on the Palmer campus.
One of the keynote speakers at the event was the national director for the Office of Job Corps at the United States Department of Labor, Rachel Torres. She calls job corps the best-kept secret around.
“It is the largest residential program with a budget of $1.7 billion, where it trains students ages 16 to 24 in a skill,” Torres said.
The Job Corps Center in Palmer is one of 121 in the nation, and the only one in the state. It’s a no-cost program that offers students an education alternative to a traditional college — vocational training in a specific field such as electrical, construction, or welding.
“We help them get into the workforce, get a good paying job, and then they could start their life without having to worry about student loans,” Alaska Job Corps Center Director Malyn Smith stated.
The program not only trains residents, but also helps them with job placement upon completion of their program. At the workforce summit, the center introduced its residents to potential employers. It allowed students to engage with individuals working in their training field, as well as offered an opportunity for employers to give the center feedback on its programs.
“What’s the need in the industry, what they would like us to integrate in our training program so we can produce the graduates and the employees that they need right in their businesses and organizations.” Smith said. “This kind of engagement gives values to the program — to placement of our students.”
Lunch was served by job corps culinary students while Smith, Torres, and Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Tamika Ledbetter served as speakers at the event. Afterward, students sat at their respective industry tables to ask and answer questions from visitors.
“We value our students at the end when they complete the program,” Torres said. “To be able to start a job within the field that they’ve learned so that they can have a sustainable career.”
The Alaska Job Corps Center has the capacity to serve 226 students and currently has about 115 enrolled. Smith said the pandemic curbed enrollment numbers and they are actively working to enroll more. The center is an open entry, open exit program which means students can apply at any time with enrollment happening every other week.
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