Institutions change to provide workers with necessary skills

As the Labor Day holiday approaches, work is on our mind. Did you know that younger baby boomers (born between 1957 and 1964) held an average of 11.3 jobs from the ages 18 to 46? That trend now seems to be the norm.

Gone are the days when workers stayed with a company for most of their working lives. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, American workers today search for new jobs frequently, and are hired for an average of more than 11 separate jobs over a lifetime. The U.S. Census Bureau has found the average worker stays with the same employer for just four years.

There’s nothing wrong with job hopping. In 21st century America, the benefits that once came with staying with the same company for decades have diminished. Workers need to be mobile in order to find jobs that pay better and offer increasingly satisfying work.

Workers also need to keep up with changes in the workplace so they are well equipped to handle jobs of the future. 

A story in this week’s Real Estate and Business section provides a great example of how Alaska is making the most of its northern location to provide training for jobs of the future.

The Alaska Vocational-Technical Center, AVTEC, in Seward is starting the nation’s first ice navigation program for marine pilots and captains. Officials say the program is not only in response to the Arctic’s growing popularity among a wide range of industries — from tourism to energy development —but also in preparation for the expected 2016 release of the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code. That code will set training and operational requirements for Arctic travel.

Currently there is nothing that requires vessels operating in the Arctic to have an ice manager or ice navigator on board, but that’s expected to change with the new code. And AVTEC is positioning itself to provide the necessary training.

Alaskans in general and Kenai Peninsula residents in particular can take pride in AVTEC for taking the lead in preparing workers for jobs in the arctic, a region whose importance is increasing in the global marketplace.

Closer to home, the Kachemak Bay and Kenai River campuses of Kenai Peninsula College should be applauded for developing programs in such fields as health care and the oil and gas industry that prepare students for jobs available now. The Kenai River campus recently marked a milestone in its development with the opening of a new Career and Technical Education Center. 

The center includes labs for computer electronics, instrumentation, process simulation and fabrication. That’s a proverbial win-win, since it likely means more students will stay in the area to be trained for jobs that will be available when they complete their certification or degree.

It’s inspiring to see institutions model the same characteristic that workers are told they need to survive changes in the workplace — mainly, flexibility. The jobs of the future will look different than the jobs of today. Workplace trends will be different. Technology will make it possible for more people to earn a paycheck without ever leaving home.

But one thing will remain the same: Hard work will continue to be the fuel on which everything else turns. 

In the spirit of Labor Day, we salute workers everywhere. Nothing gets done without you. Many thanks for your work.

Here’s to a well-deserved holiday. May it be fun and safe.



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