ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The United States is an Arctic nation because of Alaska, and Thursday the Symposium Encounter with the Arctic began at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. At the event, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy hosted ambassadors from other Arctic nations
“Our common interests include transportation, resource development including minerals, oil and gas, fisheries, climate change and national defense,” Dunleavy said.
The purpose of the symposium is for the United States and other Arctic nations to confront their common concerns and interests. One of Thursday’s themes that hit here in Alaska was workforce development.
In a session with national, state and industry leaders, University of Alaska President Pat Pitney said the labor force in Alaska has fallen by about 30,000 people in recent years and that with the infrastructure bill, the state was going to need about 10,000 more people. workers in the years to come. Pitney said one of the main issues is that young people in Alaska aren’t seeking post-secondary education in college or business programs.
“Across our state, we have the lowest college attendance, but we have the lowest post-secondary attendance, and that also means trades and the military,” Pitney said.
Marilyn Romano, regional vice president of Alaska Airlines, added that today’s workforce is aging and young people are not looking to pursue careers in these fields. Alaska Airlines is currently facing a shortage of pilots and mechanics. During the session, the group said the goal was to create ways, especially for Indigenous communities, to pursue higher education and get children interested in post-secondary education from an early age.
“I know the senator (Murkowski) was a great champion of the ANSEP program. I think we have tremendous potential in STEM and inspiring young people in Alaska,” said Steve Wackowski, state director in the office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. “It’s an incredible model where they take students at the college level and track them and then try to place them in STEM-related jobs.”
Climate change was also an important topic on the first day of the event. Heather McFarlandfrom the University of Alaska Fairbanks and head of communications at the International Arctic Research Center, said his group studies the changing Arctic climate.
They use and share this research to make a difference for the people of Alaska and the Arctic. She also attends the symposium to collaborate with other people and groups working in the Arctic, and perhaps partner with them in the future. McFarland said the Arctic is experiencing warmer temperatures, which impacts the surrounding environment.
“The Arctic is changing very rapidly,” McFarland said. “We are seeing warmer temperatures which have a huge impact on the whole environment and so that has an impact on people, it has an impact on industry, it has an impact on governments. So we need to work together to figure out what to do about it.
The symposium is scheduled to continue Friday, beginning at 9 a.m. US Senators Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski are scheduled to speak on energy and Arctic policy.
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