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New UAS degrees aimed at getting Sitkans Alaska jobs

UAS Healthcare outreach specialist, Bob Love spoke to Sitka's Chamber along with other UAS administrators.(KCAW photo/by Emily Forman)

UAS Healthcare outreach specialist Bob Love spoke to Sitka’s Chamber along with other UAS administrators.(KCAW photo/by Emily Forman)

More and more specialized occupations require specialized training — often at the college level — and the University of Alaska Southeast is planning to meet that demand. UAS Sitka campus administrators spoke about some of the new degree programs in law enforcement, fisheries, and healthcare before the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (3-12-13). With an $8-million budget, including grant funding, the University intends to better equip Sitkans to enter the workforce.

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UAS law enforcement program manager Dave Sexton asked the Sitka Chamber to turn the clocks back 50 years – to a time when law enforcement didn’t have educational standards.

“The sixties were a great decade for rock and roll and moon landings the 60s pretty much sucked for law enforcement,” says Sexton.

The US government has raised the bar for joining the police force since the sixties, and Sexton says UAS is trying to ride the wave.

“Up until six months ago you could get an Associate of arts degree in police sciences in 49 states,” says Sexton. “Alaska was the only state in the union that didn’t offer a law enforcement degree, a two year degree.”

That was until UAS started offering an Associates of Arts degree in Police Science last fall. Previously Sitkans had to travel to Fairbanks or Anchorage and get a four year bachelor’s degree in order to be competitive. Now they can get a degree from UAS in two years without leaving home, or even their couch – should they opt to take the course online.

Sitka Police Chief Sheldon Schmidt said this offering is a big step in cultivating more Alaska-grown cops. “Law enforcement is marching towards degree standards and I think we’re smart to get in while we can because the market is there. Pretty soon within the next 10-15 years I think there will be a degree requirement.”

And UAS wants to make it easier to get a degree. That means making all classes available online, but also accommodating Sitkans who learn best in the classroom. UAS Fish Tech program manager Reid Brewer has piloted a hybrid approach. He teaches a fisheries class with two local students and eight others from around the state.

“This coming fall we’re going to offer all of our classes as hybrid classes. So, Sitkans can take a face-to-face class here,” says Brewer. “In the past all we were doing was distance and right now I’m trial running how this technology works where you have both local and distance. And it really seems to work, but we want to make these classes available to Sitkans.”

Brewer says UAS places 80% of its Fish Tech students in fisheries related fields. Over the next four years he hopes this will increase. The Department of Labor recently granted his department $2.5 million. Brewer has already put this funding to work. He hired outreach coordinators who have been helping to link students to fisheries fields. He also intends to develop occupational endorsement programs for fisheries management. That’s a degree that requires fewer than 30 credits. It’s fewer than a certificate, but still teaches the skills necessary for job placement.

New university-wide programming changes are also designed to get Sitka’s High School students to start thinking strategically about the future.

One of the other things we’re doing for Sitka is we’re trying to get our programs into high school. So, we’re trying to offer our courses for dual credit, says Brewer. “High school students from both Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka can take our classes for college credit and high school credit.”

In the meanwhile, UAS Director Jeff Johnston said the last thing he wants is for Sitkans to go into debt with nothing to show for it. He’s confident the program options at UAS will continue to help people get a good start on their careers without the financial risk.

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