- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

BETHEL, Alaska (AP) - The contractor overseeing the $300 million expansion of a Bethel hospital is focusing its hiring efforts on Alaska Native workers and others from the region as it looks to start construction next year.

Project manager James Murrell, with the native-owned contractor ASKW-Davis, said the company is looking to hire as many Natives and local residents as possible before the work begins in six months, KYUK-AM reported (https://bit.ly/2gHd7re).

“We’re not just this general contractor that’s coming in to just be a presence in Bethel and in the community, we want to be a part of the community. And the best way to do that is to hire within the community and region,” Murrell said.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation project will bring about 150 jobs to the area over a five-year period. Those jobs will include electricians, plumbers and carpenters.

YKHC President and CEO Dan Winkelman said it may be difficult to reach a 100 percent hiring rate of locals and natives, as there aren’t many tradesmen in the area who have experience with constructing large-scale facilities.

“Knowing all that, we know that we’re not going to hit that number but that’s the right answer,” Winkelman said. “So it’s my job as Chief Executive Officer of the company to make sure we have processes in place that we are hiring as many local Alaska Natives as possible from our region.”

Winkelman said people who are interested in the jobs but don’t have the skills can get some experience through training programs and apprenticeships managed by Yuut Elitnaurviat, Bethel’s workforce development center. It’s possible for people to begin an apprenticeship and become a journeyman while working on the five-year project, he said.

“And after that they would be able to go to any job in the state and have a fantastic wage, and if they wanted to join a union, they’d have those benefits as well,” Winkelman said.

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Information from: KYUK-AM, https://www.kyuk.org


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