Alaskans are taking advantage of apprenticeship training programs more than they were a decade ago.
New registrations for apprenticeship programs went up more than 50 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to a report released this week by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Most were Alaska residents when they registered.
Apprentices in trades such as construction, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry and welding take about 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training, plus technical instruction time in the classroom.
Mike Andrews, director of the division of employment and training services at the Labor Department, said that the growth of people starting apprenticeships is significant because people who do these programs see their earnings increase rapidly as they gain experience. That helps increase upward mobility.
"For one thing, it shows there's a strong private sector commitment to driving the workforce," he said. "And the other is an increased awareness of the value of apprenticeship as a training model."
In 2014, the report said, apprentices made an average wage of about $52,818. That's about 35 percent more than the average for all Alaska workers.
While the number of people registering for apprenticeships has grown significantly in Alaska in recent years, it doesn't really represent a huge shift in the state's workforce, said Dan Robinson, director of research and analysis at the Labor Department. About 9,000 people in Alaska participated in an apprenticeship program between 2004 and 2014.
"Macroeconomically, you wouldn't see a big splash from what happens there," Robinson said. "In the scheme of things, that's a fairly small percentage of our total workforce."
He said that there is a big value, though, in more people learning about a path that rapidly grows income.
About 26 percent of people participating in an apprenticeship in the state between 2004 and 2014 completed the program successfully, the report said, 57 percent canceled or failed to finish, and 17 percent were still active as of 2014. Most who canceled did so early on in the program.
Of the nearly 9,000 people in apprenticeships over those 10 years, almost 80 percent were still working in Alaska in 2014, the report said.
Alaska Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas touted the report in a news release on Wednesday, citing apprenticeships as a way to drive the hiring of residents instead of people from Outside.
"Registered apprenticeship is a vital tool to sustain our middle class and increase rates of Alaska Hire," Drygas said.