OPINION: UAA’s career certificates are helping to fill Alaska’s workforce pipeline

Over the past two and a half years, we’ve seen the Anchorage economy transition from being strained by job losses, closures and unemployment to being stressed by a workforce shortage, with unfilled positions across nearly every industry. At the University of Alaska Anchorage, we offer pathways for Alaskans into good paying jobs and careers, that’s why we continue to invest in our Fast Track Career and additional Occupational Endorsement Certificate programs.

Fast Track Career Certificates at UAA were created to help people quickly pivot their careers mid-pandemic in the face of a shifting jobs landscape. They joined the array of Occupational Endorsement Certificates (OEC) the university had been offering for years. Today, we know these certificate programs are a key tool in economic growth as we listen to the needs of Alaska employers and help build and grow our programs accordingly. These programs are designed to quickly teach students the skills employers need, leading them to higher paying jobs and helping to fill the employment pipeline in our state.

At UAA, we are announcing a new suite of certificate programs responding to some of the state’s most critical needs. Tourism has returned to full force, with cruise passengers and independent travelers alike flocking to the state; UAA now offers an OEC in hospitality. The most sought-after soft skill in job listings across Anchorage is verbal and written communication; we now offer an OEC in professional writing.

UAA has heard from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game that it needs more Alaska graduates, and we hope our natural resource technician OEC, in addition to our biological and natural sciences degrees, can help to quickly fill this need. We are also offering new OECs in Ahtna language, Dena’ina language, Alaska Native business management and graphic design. These programs join high-demand certificates in industries such as auto-diesel technology, welding, culinary arts, bookkeeping and more.

Additionally, the UAA College of Health recently received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help expand the state’s homegrown health care workforce. These funds are being used to construct new laboratories and classrooms and upgrade existing facilities, opening up new education and training opportunities. Most know UAA’s College of Health for its nursing program, but did you know that UAA’s College of Health offers over 40 other programs? We expect to double our graduates annually, and many of these programs can be completed in two years or less.

Alaska is currently paying millions of dollars for out-of-state recruitment and wages each year, another reason why it is so imperative to train our own. Keeping a UAA education affordable is important, so we continue to develop and identify new financial aid opportunities, and we remain committed to keeping tuition costs flat. In addition, a large number of courses at UAA are designed to use free or very low cost textbooks. Recognizing the need for flexibility, we offer many courses via distance technologies, including fully online courses, live courses offered through Zoom and other web conferencing, and courses where students get to choose whether they attend in person or online.

If you’re rethinking your career path or would like to expand your skills, there is no better time to start than now. Advisors are available to help you identify your ideal track. Call UAA Admissions at 907-786-1480 and set yourself on a path to a bright future.


Sean Parnell is the chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage. He formerly served as governor and lieutenant governor of Alaska.

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