Blumer: LNG project would boost Alaska job market

Alaska’s proposed liquefied natural gas line project would add between 9,000 and 15,000 jobs to the state market, said Dianne Blumer, state Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner, at a Thursday meeting.

Blumer was the guest speaker at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon at the Hangar on the Wharf. She gave a rundown of her department’s functions and highlighted some statistics surrounding recent developments.

The DOL is concerned about providing the pipeline project with ample workers, she said.

“It’s a big order for how we’re going to fill that labor force and how we’re going to train them,” Blumer said.

She also reported Alaska’s workplace safety. Workplace deaths have decreased steadily over the past few decades, Blumer said. In 2012, 30 workers died on the job, she said, eight less than the year before.

She said Alaska is one of 17 states to have recovered all jobs lost during the recession. Juneau’s workforce is made up of 17,825 people, she said. Currently, Alaska’s unemployment rate is 6.4 percent; Juneau’s is 4.6 percent.

The majority of the DOL’s funds go toward developing Alaska’s job market, Blumer said.

“About 60 percent of our budget is focused on workforce development,” she said.

This includes programs that train youth to be hireable once they leave high school, as well as job placement for veterans and people leaving Alaska’s prison system.

Partnerships with privately owned operations like the Greens Creek and Kensington mines allows the department to reach the most people, she said.

“But our biggest partner is you,” Blumer said, addressing the chamber crowd. “We can’t do workforce development without business industry involvement.”

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