Education worth the investment


Posted: Friday, March 07, 2008

Coming off the heels of last week's Job Shadow Program day for Kenai Central High School students, an appearance by University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton, UA Anchorage Chancellor Fran Ulmer and Kenai Peninsula College Director Gary Turner is well timed.

The trio hit central peninsula high schools to visit with students and answer questions about their future. They also stopped at peninsula chambers of commerce along the way to let people know the university is filling its role to not only continue the education of ABCs, but also making strides in offering programs that make a difference in Alaska.

Hamilton said 100 new programs have been added in the last 10 years, 85 of which are in the two-year and under, work force development subject areas.

Last week, speakers at the Job Shadow Kenai chamber luncheon encouraged students to take their time and know what they want to do, to plan ahead financially and to know that for some people, four years of college may not be the right answer, but there are alternatives.

Nowadays, what these speakers said connects one issue with the other, especially as tuition costs continue to go nowhere but up.

"It used to be you worked construction to get into college. Now you have to go to college to go into construction," Hamilton told the Clarion on Tuesday.

The good news is UA is doing its part to keep up with the changes taking place in Alaska.

When trends started to show the declining numbers in the state's work force, programs were added, especially in health care. Certification programs now include emergency trauma technician, emergency medical technician, paramedic, personal care assistant, certified nursing assistant and registered nurse.

Ulmer said the Mining and Petroleum Training Service, which is based in Soldotna, has trained more than 50,000 people since it started in 1979.

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

She said personal care assistants will become one of the highest demand professions in the near future.

It seems to us UA is doing what it set out to do filling the needs of those who want to better themselves through education and increase their chances to be successful in their careers.

But the university can't continue to do this alone.

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

He said 63 percent of Alaska students go to college in state, and 82 percent of UAA graduates stay and work in Alaska.

These numbers tell us these programs are worth investing in. We sure hope the legislators are paying attention.

Education is always a good investment.

And next year when the Job Shadow day rolls around, we suggest bumping up the timing of university personnel visits by a week. It sure wouldn't hurt for the students to hear from those providing their possible next step into the future.

Just a thought.

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