Over the last month, I have attended numerous meetings regarding the gas pipeline proposal. The No. 1 issue regarding resource development should be jobs for Alaskans. The No. 2 issue should be access to gas for all Alaskans, which includes the industry on the Kenai Peninsula. Without this, moderate and low income residents will not be able to live here because their utility bills will drive them away.
The greatest unmet need in the gas pipeline proposal is assuring that Alaskans are prepared to assume the jobs that will be required. If Alaskans are not prepared, the jobs will very likely go to Chinese workers who are now involved in major construction projects like the Three Gorges Dam.
In every meeting about the gas pipeline, there is an acceptance of the present reality that we do not have near enough trained Alaskans to build the gas pipeline. This is accepted as a given, however, no one seems to be prepared to address this major oversight.
In the next 10 years, before the gas pipeline starts producing revenue for the state, $50 million a year needs to be spent on high school and college vocational training for the jobs that will be needed to build and maintain the gas pipeline. Any program that would contain $500 million of incentives for private industry must provide at least an equal amount of money for the training and vocational education of young Alaskans.
We need industry to assist in resource development; however, we must never forget that our greatest natural resource is our children and their future. We must assure their opportunity to spend their lives working in Alaska, raising their families, supporting local merchants and making Alaska stronger.
The state of Alaska should commit 5 percent of the new PPT revenue toward the task of providing vocational education. As history has shown, we should expect the state to spend every new penny they get their hands on. Let’s make vocational education for building the gas pipeline Alaska’s legacy today as the oil pipeline’s legacy from yesterday is the permanent fund.
Mayor Dave Carey
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