Focus on the future

UA pushes work force development

Posted: Thursday, March 06, 2008

In the 10 years he has been president of the University of Alaska, Mark Hamilton said 100 new programs have begun, 85 of which are in the two-year and under, work force development subject areas.

"We've invested $80 million in these programs," Hamilton told members of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Joining Hamilton, Fran Ulmer, chancellor of the University of Alaska-Anchorage, said the Mining and Petroleum Training Service, based in Soldotna, has trained more than 50,000 people since it began in 1979.

"You may not know this, but (MAPTS) is the largest training provider of its kind in all of North America," Ulmer said.

Speaking about health care training offered at the university's Kenai Peninsula College, Ulmer listed certification programs in emergency trauma technician, emergency medical technician, paramedic, personal care assistants, certified nursing assistant and registered nurses.

"We have 29,000 jobs in health care in Alaska," said Ulmer. "By 2019 there will be 42,000 more."

Because of aging baby boomers, Ulmer said personal care assistants will become one of the highest demand professions.

"And that training is offered right here in your neighborhood," she said, speaking of KPC.

Describing a practice he called "renting professionals," Hamilton said it costs Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau $240,000 more to rent two radiation technicians than it costs to hire them.

He said "the artificial cost of renting our professionals has gotten out of hand."

Since the completion of the trans-Alaska pipeline, Hamilton said "$82 billion has left the state in salaries paid to professionals" who do not reside in the state.

He said the university system is the key to stemming the flow.

"We've got to tell the Legislature, 'Fund the university,'" Hamilton said.

"I want this state to embrace this institution. Let us train your workforce, and your professionals," he said.

Hamilton told the business leaders 63 percent of Alaska students go to college in state, and said 82 percent of UAA graduates stay and work in Alaska.

During his 10 years at the helm, Hamilton said, "We have doubled the tuition; we have doubled the government cost recovery; we have raised $30 million through resource (land) sales; we have received $30 million from BP and ConocoPhillips.

"I'm not going to redouble tuition and I can't get $60 million from BP," he said.

However, Hamilton said, to meet the needs of the state of Alaska, the university needs to redouble the number of nurses it has already trained and it needs to double the number of engineers.

Responding to a question from the audience, KPC Director Gary Turner said the Soldotna college is starting a radiology tech program in conjunction with Central Peninsula Hospital for two students this fall, and he is working with Dennis Murray at Heritage Place on a physical therapy assistant program possibly for four students.

The number of students is limited by the requirement in health care for clinical work, he said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at

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