Seafood season is here. As such, the state is encouraging seasonal hiring. While the hopes are residents will be hired for these jobs, that continues to be a tall order.
“Some seasonal jobs are in strong supply right now,” Labor Commissioner Click Bishop said in a release. “Young people are especially encouraged to apply, as these jobs offer an opportunity to earn money quickly while building a work history, as well as travel and see Alaska.”
The release states that there are about 500 seafood processing job openings across the state, with the minimum age for many seafood jobs being 18.
“The heavy demand for seafood workers will continue through August as additional runs open and seafood is processed around the state,” states Nelson San Juan, seafood employment specialist with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The release encourages young people to apply for such jobs. Still, both the state and the companies know most of these jobs will be taken up by those coming from outside Alaska.
Taku Fisheries Vice President and General Manager Eric Norman, said a large part of the summer’s seasonal employees come from the Lower 48, mostly younger folks and students. He even hires European college students.
Norman says local and in-state seasonal workers have been quite difficult to find, which he says is common in the seafood processing business.
Alaska Glacier Seafoods CEO Mike Erickson agrees, saying the local market can be tough in Juneau. He said many of these seasonal jobs are entry-level and minimal paying so locals just aren’t interested.
Norman said the difficulty of the work can also be a factor for residents.
Norman said there’s still a large need for such workers, with needs for thousands across the state during a season. He said they have “big needs” and are “gearing up for a big salmon season.”
“It’s probably the type of work and salaries that makes it not really attractive for some workers,” said Erickson.
It’s a different story for permanent employees. During the winter, Alaska Glacier Seafoods has about 80 local residents on board. Erickson said that changes over the summer with non-residents far outnumbering the local, permanent folks. He said there are about 115 employees at the season’s peak, with most of those being seasonal.
Most of these are young college students who don’t mind coming to Juneau to work these jobs at those pay levels. Erickson said a lot of students there enjoy the work and don’t mind the entry-level side of it because they know they will be going back to school in a few months. He said the hours can allow them to make decent money for the time being. Norman said many from outside the state and country also come here for the adventure of it.
As state economist Mali Abrahamson put it, “They’re tourists themselves.”
Erickson said it helps that seasonal workers tend to go back to school so companies don’t have to do layoffs in the fall.
Still, both company leaders say they always try to hire locally when they can.
Erickson added the company’s expansion with a new logistics support center will most likely create some additional permanent jobs rather than seasonal.
Nonresident seasonal employees aren’t a new thing. State economist Caroline Schultz said this trend has remained consistent over the years. She said seafood processing has the highest nonresident seasonal numbers of any industry in the Southeast. She said numbers from 2009 show there were 71 percent nonresident employees in Southeast’s seafood industry while such employees were 75 percent of the industry’s workforce statewide.
Abrahamson also said Southeast’s seafood processing trends have varied little in the last decade. As for total seafood employment, she said the Sitka area has driven the Southeast’s increase after 2008’s low numbers. Although Juneau has played an increased role in employment since the early 2000s, Petersburg and Ketchikan have the highest employment.
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development showed a minimal projected change in statewide seasonal employment in seafood processing, from 7,400 last April to a preliminary number of 7,600 this April.
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s communications director, Beth Leschper, said the state works with anyone ready to work in the industry. She is just as encouraging to residents for these jobs, saying there are 23 job centers throughout Alaska that recruit for the industry.
Information on seafood processing jobs is available at these centers or by calling toll-free in Alaska (800) 473-0688. Seafood job descriptions and application information are available on ALEXsys, Alaska’s Online Job Bank, at Jobs.Alaska.Gov. Seafood recruiting events are posted on the “Job Fair” link.