There are now many new Red Card holders in the State of Alaska and they received their certification at the Alaska Job Corps. This is a supplemental tool in the Alaska Job Corps students’ toolbox. The primary goal of Alaska Job Corps is to train and place students in careers. In addition to the nine official trade paths, multiple, usable credentials and supplemental “value-added” certifications are part of the program.
It is vital that these supplemental offerings are “in demand” just like the trades. In both Alaska (and particularly in the Western states,) a firefighting “Red Card” is a valuable qualification.
The Red Card program is essentially a firefighting training program. Fireline decisions are often complex, but “on the ground” decisions require individual judgement calls, along with extensive training, dedicated practice and experience. Oftentimes personal safety and the health and welfare of individuals is paramount in addition to protecting life and property.
Participating in this Red Card program assures that the successful student can offer critical assistance to homes and villages. It also allows for career mobility and public service and strengthens local connections and contacts with decision makers. It is a vital role in both the economy and rural landscape of all of Alaska. And perhaps the most valuable aspect is that the student will be able to find employment and meaning in the shoulder months, should there be a downfall in economic opportunity in their trade of choice.
Alaska Job Corp Center Director Malyn Smith and Career Education Manager Tami Graham were instrumental in bringing the program to the Alaska Job Corps. Protective Services Instructor Andy Jurasek organized all the logistics and requirements for the classes. As a result, 38 students from Protective Services and construction classes took these speciality courses. Thirteen completed all the courses and also were successful in the onerous and arduous 3 mile hike, wearing 45 pounds in less than 45 minutes; they are now qualified Red Card holders.
First they completed the Introduction of Incident Command System (ICS-100) followed by the National Incident Management System’s introduction (IS 700) offers by FEMA. Three classes are the S130, S190 and L180, which are respectively Firefighter Training, Intro to Fire Behavior, and Leadership. Final exams and hands on training, along with the 3 mile pack agility test qualify these students for the coveted Red Card.
A possible scenario for a Job Corps student, upon completion of the above classes and receipt of a Red Card, would be the application to the North Star Crew, eventual progression to a Hot Shot crew and onto the career conveyer belt for additionally well-trained firefighting positions with local, state, or federal organizations. There are 30-35 annual village fire crews around the state, with 16 positions in each.
BLM and the Alaska Job Corps work well together. Their partnership in this and other ventures is beneficial to both agencies and communities. Both the Fire Service and Job Corps are well-supported by the Alaska’s congressional delegation; the collaboration between programs will serve to exponentially to help all regions. Individuals participating in the programs are recipients of the wild land fire economy and in subsistence areas, a wage influx can be substantial. Both are federally funded programs.
Dave Whitmer is the Chief of BLM’s Alaska Fire Service with the Department of Interior. He is one of four instructors working with the Alaska Job Corps students. He said, “I am amazed at this facility and the students’ interest. This is a win/win situation for the students and all parts of the states.”
Other instructors are: Ben Ferguson, Assistant Superintendent and Chase Maness are both from the Midnight Sun Hotshot crew. Jon Glover is a Wildland Resource Technician III with the State of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry. All agreed that the Job Corps group has both great potential and good motivation.
Center Director Smith is thrilled with this program. She hopes to formalize two trainings per year and perhaps more. She says, “I see this as an important step for our students to access federal jobs and the overall forestry service industry. We are happy to supply candidates to this meaningful effort.”
The Alaska Job Corps program is a Federal training program operated by Chugach Education Services.
Written for Alaska Job Corps by Barbara Hunt
Photo credits: Shelly Laug