SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The Great Alaska Cluster of 2011
By Tara Jollie


May 06, 2011
Friday PM

A budget showdown in the last days of this special session defines what Alaskans mean when we use the term cluster. I appreciate the power struggle the Senate is grappling with, but having checks and balances is a good thing. Having one or two people in the Administration making critical decisions that impact us all is not a good thing. This is a fight worth fighting.

The Governor’s original bill reducing oil revenue tax is flimsy and needs work. It struck me as a lazy piece of work written by someone who thought it would sail right through. The Administration’s strategy of moving it through session with threats and name calling wasn’t too swift either.

The higher mission is to fill the pipeline, stimulate the economy, and put Alaskans to work. Alaskans, not outside workers, are losing industry jobs. Jobs indirectly related to the oil patch are also at risk. Food servers, housekeepers, construction workers, childcare givers, grocery store clerks, healthcare providers, and truck drivers are dependent on a good economy. These jobs pay the rent, put food on the table, and buy school clothes. Legislators, please rise to the occasion. Ask the right questions. Don’t settle for slick answers or polished, potentially biased, commissioned reports.

Ask Alaskan employers and workers to find the ground truth that seems to be missing in the political debate. The true impact a half full pipeline has on Alaskans can be found with a simple survey. It’s time to change the game and focus on Alaska’s workforce.

Explore ideas that focus on workforce training strategies. The Department of Labor 2007 Transition Team laid out a blueprint to do exactly that, but the DOLWD Commissioner decided no change at all was the right course of action. His decision was odd since he participated on the transition team that wrote the report. The transition report called for group consensus before it was submitted to Governor Sarah Palin and Lt Governor Sean Parnell. What is not odd is we still have a fragmented approach to workforce development and double digit unemployment in rural Alaska.

The State Training and Employment Program (STEP) could be beefed up. When I left STEP about 5 years ago, half of the program dollars went out in grants. The other half went to support state government (Department of Labor). All STEP money has the flexibility to support workforce training priorities as deemed appropriate by the state. At 7 to 10 million dollars a year, STEP could make a significant dent on this issue. The challenge is to keep it from being diverted to support the Department. If this idea were implemented it would put Alaskans to work, provide a local workforce for employers, and stimulate the economy.

I’m confident Alaskans would submit many more ideas for consideration if only they were asked.

Legislators, thank you for taking on this difficult task. I wish you all the best.

Tara Jollie
Jollie writes a blog on Rural Affairs called LeadDogAlaska

About: Tara Jollie worked for the State the past 20 years in 3 Departments; first the Department of Community and Regional Affairs, then the Department of Labor, and finally the Department of Commerce. Jollie spent many years as a worker bee, then program manager, on to Labor Deputy Commissioner and lastly Director, Division of Community and Regional Affairs. Her passion is service to rural Alaska.


Received May 05, 2011 - Published May 06, 2011



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