Education does not end at age 18. Adults adapting to the changing employment scene of the 21st century can upgrade skills at post-secondary schools on the Kenai Peninsula.
Kenai Peninsula College
Kenai Peninsula College, a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage, maintains two campuses in Soldotna and Homer.
Between one-third and one-half of its students focus on vocational training, said college Director Ginger Steffy.
She estimated that 38 percent of students are in technical classes, but others enroll in two-year associate of arts programs with the intent of finishing four-year technical degrees as transfer students in Anchorage.
The college offers a wide spectrum of educational services to improve people's job prospects, from general equivalency degrees to upper-level humanities courses to free seminars on job hunting skills.
The offerings are evolving. This year, the college is launching programs in industrial process technology and computer networking, Steffy said.
Technology is transforming other vocational areas. New equipment, such as in the mechanical shop, is extensively computerized.
"It is not just the same machine shop," Steffy said. "It is a computerized machine shop."
The campus offers two-year degrees in small business administration, petroleum technology, office management and technology, industrial process instrumentation and computer electronics. It also offers one-year certificates in mechanical technology, office technology, petroleum technology, small business management and welding.
Even people who are not enrolled in classes can take advantage of the KPC Career Center.
The center offers access to the computerized Alaska Career Information System, a career library, personality inventory surveys, a job listings bulletin board, resource files and individual job search counseling.
Alaska Vocational Technical Center
AVTEC, in Seward, is an independent state school focused on technical education.
"We are unique to Alaska in that we're a public post-secondary school but not part of the university," said Director Fred Esposito.
The school is in the process of adding maritime simulators to train navigators for commercial vessels such as tankers. The state-of-the-art equipment will mimic wheelhouses, complete with virtual reality "windows."
Another recent addition at AVTEC is the CISCO Academy, which trains computer networking technicians.
The school offers classes on campus but also provides training services throughout the state by arrangement. It relies on state funding and, increasingly, grants and partnerships with private businesses, Esposito said.
Topics taught include allied health, business and office technology, information technology, automotive technology, diesel engines, heavy equipment, industrial electricity, emission systems, pipe welding, power plant operation, welding, well control, commercial baking, food service, learning resources, maritime and fisheries skills, physical plant technology, plumbing and heating, refrigeration, residential electrical maintenance and structural maintenance.
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