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CITC partners with ironworkers union for pre-apprenticeship training

Students in CITC's new ironworkers pre-apprenticeship training program practice their new skills. (Courtesy of Cook Inlet Tribal Council.)
Students in CITC’s new ironworkers pre-apprenticeship training program practice their new skills. (Courtesy of Cook Inlet Tribal Council.)

Perched atop a steel structure outside the Ironworkers Local 751 building in Anchorage, CIRI descendant Taylor Clinton called down to the instructors of Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s (CITC) new ironworkers training program: “I love it up here!”

The program, made possible through a partnership between CITC and the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Union, is meant to connect people who want to work with a solid career opportunity in the construction industry.

The five-week training has roots in the Lower 48, where District Council Organizer for the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Union Tom Tanner brings preapprenticeship trainings to American Indian tribes. Tanner worked with the local Alaska ironworkers union to secure a training facility and local instructors. “A big thing for me is Native people teaching Native people,” explained Tanner, who is a member of the Flathead American Indian Tribe. “So we got two members to teach; one is a CIRI member, and one is from the Cherokee Nation.”

Instructors led weeklong courses on forklift operation, structural steel erection, welding and basic terminology and safety. Students visited projects, like CIRI’s Fireweed Business Center, to experience active job sites firsthand.

Upon graduation, participants not only received preapprenticeship certificates, but North Slope Training cards, OSHA certifications and forklift operators certificates. Successful completion of training entitles each student automatic entry into the ironworkers apprenticeship program, where they will start at a wage of about $20 an hour.

“I’m making way more than I was as a cook,” says Clinton, who was offered a job on the North Slope the second week of the program. “I was barely able to support myself and my son before. This trade I’m in now, it’s not for everybody. But I love it.”

CITC plans to offer additional ironworker trainings and hopes to expand its apprenticeship program in 2015.