By Mark Edward Nero
On Jan. 26, Vigor, Alaska’s largest shipbuilder and ship repair company, and Anchorage-based workforce development organization Maritime Works jointly announced plans for a training program aimed at developing an advanced manufacturing workforce comprised of Alaska residents.
The initiative, called Advancing Alaskan Workers, is aimed at combatting the high turnover rates seen at the Ketchikan shipyard and elsewhere that result when non-Alaskans are recruited to fill the critical skills gap in the state.
Vigor and Maritime Works say the project will offer structured on-the-job training, leading to industry-recognized credentials and family wage careers.
“This is key to providing sustainable opportunities for Alaskans in the Ketchikan workforce as well as providing Vigor’s current workforce a path for upgrading skills, advancing to leadership positions and higher earnings,” Maritime Works spokeswoman Cari-Ann Carty said.
Carty is the Executive Director of the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium (APICC), an industry backed nonprofit, which serves as staff and fiscal agent for Maritime Works.
In 2016, Vigor employed 191 people at the Ketchikan Shipyard, up substantially from just 21 employees in 1994. With large contracts to build two Alaska-class ferries for the Alaska Marine Highway System – and other large projects forecasted for the future – Vigor and Maritime Works are taking steps to build a skilled local workforce to meet the demand.
“The maritime sector holds great promise for the future of our state,” Vigor’s shipyard development director, Doug Ward said. “To realize that promise we must have a stable, best-in-class Alaska resident workforce which will enable us to win more contracts and in turn provide a steady flow of work for our community.”