akutaq infrastructure in times of prosperity


By Walter Betz

Update: 28 a few minutes ago Published: 28 a few minutes ago

There are many akutaq recipes in Alaska. I don’t know which is the best. The secret, I am told, is in what you do with your ingredients.

We have the opportunity to create an akutaq infrastructure that will leave a great taste in the mouths of Alaskans if we do it right.

Millions of dollars in infrastructure contracts will come to Alaska over the next few years. That’s the good news.

More than 1,000 people, in person and virtually, came together to plan this future of abundance at the Dena’ina Center earlier this month to connect with grantees and heads of state, and reconnect with the contacts after our pandemic hibernation.

I shook hands with the Commissioner of the Ministry of Transport. I told him that the Yuut Elitnaurviat People’s Learning Center in Bethel had been denied state permission to train truck drivers to drive water and sewer trucks because Bethel had no not a two-mile stretch of four-lane highway to practice lane changes and because we don’t have on- or off-ramps to practice on.

In the Commissioner’s words, “Yes, it is a problem.”

How could we modify the rules and regulations in a reasonable way to solve a simple problem?

Then there is the huge money that has been talked about for internet connectivity. More money than ever before is available. By my calculations, for $250 million (and we have close to $1 billion available), we could launch our own satellite and serve the entire state in less than 5 years. Instead we bicker over where to lay fiber optic cables or build microwave towers and maybe in 3 years regional hubs will have fast internet but the rest of the bush will be at again abandoned. How will we use what becomes available to us?

Then there was the whole need for workforce development.

Thanks to the federal government’s push for higher graduation rates and a two-year pandemic education pivot, we have a large number of high school graduates who aren’t scoring high enough on the test. adult basic education to enter vocational training centers or get a job with our regional health authority. The state has developed an adult basic education program that is perfectly suited to Juneau.

For adults looking to earn their GED or for graduates looking to improve their skills, the first step is a series of 5-6 hour enrollment and placement tests. Some people might struggle with this, such as parents of young children, people who are employed while test centers are open, people who have not completed high school because they don’t did not test well initially. Previous rounds of adult basic education tests only took an hour, a much more manageable and less daunting start. We need to return to a more agile approach to working with adults who want to move on with their lives.

Federal regulations strangling Alaska’s rural development, infrastructure money misdirected to old-school interests, and an education system so heavy on bricks and mortar that it can’t get the job done are berries. rotten that we must replace with fresh fruit.

What is the recipe for a good akutaq infrastructure? That’s what we do with the ingredients!

Walter Betz is director of programs at the Yuut Elitnaurviat People’s Learning Center in Bethel.

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