Soldotna Chamber special assistant & Talents Program intern Nate Gallagher at the Soldotna Visitors Center.
A new alliance between the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Labor Workforce Development Business Partnership Division known as the TALENTS Project is offering opportunities for school aged and “at risk youth” to be introduced to high growth industry opportunities.
“The program is a great tool that introduces youth like myself to high growth industry jobs through on the job training, and while the program is aimed at high risk youth it can flow all the way up to anyone that is interested,” says Nate Gallagher. Gallagher was hired as an intern for the TALENTS program and a Visitor Center assistant with the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, “At the beginning of the summer they offered me the chance to pursue this great project, so I took it and have never looked back because it’s just so great,” added an enthusiastic Gallagher.
With a projected workforce potential of 40,850 possible high growth industry jobs in Alaska in the next decade, TALENTS seeks to Develop energy industry career activities for high school youth age 14-21 to better prepare youth to enter high growth occupations in oil, gas and mineral extraction and to include related activities in construction (heavy, civil and engineering) and transportation (marine and surface) industries. It also addresses the industry-identified need for new models that help youth and young adults understand the career options and opportunities in the energy industries. According to Loretta Spalding, community development specialist with the Independent Living Center the program works toward fostering relationships between industry and school districts to create sustainable plans for student development that leads to apprenticeship, employment or post-secondary education or training. “It provides training, information and assessments to encourage industry identified career pathways and facilitates development of the student’s career plans in the high growth industry of the student’s choice and helps student’s successfully fulfill their plan,” said Spalding.
Additionally the program works to develop partnerships with the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Kenai Peninsula College, Prism, Industry, Chambers of Commerce, Peninsula One Stop and other pertinent agencies to prepare workers for new and increasing job opportunities in high growth/high demand and economically vital industries and sectors of the Alaskan economy. “We want to provide a well screened, work ready group of student’s who will serve work experiences, internships, apprenticeships in selected high growth industries to promote Alaska local hire preference,” added Spalding.
Upon completion of the program the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce issues a Certificate of Employability that the student can, “Each student is evaluated to see if they have the soft skills like showing up for work on time, dressed appropriately, and basic things that will meet the employer’s needs who are willing to train employees that have these basic skills,” said Gallagher. Fifteen students participated in the first year of the project, but Gallagher says they hope to have opportunities for between forty five and sixty. “This program has really opened my eyes to a lot of different opportunities. All my life I was told go to college and driven by my parents and grandparents to get a college education, but the TALENTS project is really a great alternative education for people who don’t have the funds or academic ability necessary for college. It’s been a great experience,” said Gallagher. For more information on the TALENT project call Loretta Spalding at 283-2966 or the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce at 262-9814.
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