MASST offers job training for older Alaskans

If you are reading this short piece, you are most likely a senior, like me, interested in continuing to play a role in the Alaska economy. I came to Alaska ten years ago, toward the end of a long career of college teaching. Now I'm coordinating the Northern and Interior regions of the MASST program. It is a challenging, rewarding job. I often say that nobody is learning more than I am in this program. It's also meaningful work, because I know that it is making a difference in Northern and Interior communities.

MASST stands for Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training. We place seniors, 55 and older, with public and nonprofit agencies that offer community service training. Our participants have limited resources, are unemployed, and need current skills training to enter the workforce. The MASST program partners with Alaska's Vocational Rehabilitation and Job Center Network throughout the state. In my case, for example, my office is in the Fairbanks Job Center, and I work all the time with employment experts in the Job Center. These folks know how to help seniors write a fresh resume, navigate the AK Jobs website, and find good jobs.

During my first months with the MASST program, I've been deeply impressed by the professionals at the host agencies in our region. They often depend on volunteers to do the work of recycling, providing food to the community, giving shelter to those in need, or sorting through the donations given by community members. MASST is able to subsidize community service positions so that host sites can continue to do their good work in our region and throughout the state.

At the same time, I've learned a ton from the participants in MASST. The economy has been changing greatly over the past years, and we have all been affected by the three years of the pandemic. For many seniors, this is a new world that may seem unfamiliar, even a bit scary. But once they get an opportunity, I have seen MASST participants show their work ethic, their resourcefulness, and their value as experienced workers. It's true, today's job market is not the same as it was when we were 30 or 40 years old. But we are still ready to learn and eager to contribute to community service. Often I see seniors who have skills they take for granted, skills that they can develop through the MASST partnerships.

It seems to me that we live in a time of great challenges and great opportunities. That is true on many levels and in many arenas of life. For more information on the challenges and opportunities of the MASST program, please contact one of our regional offices.

Anchorage region: A'isha Jackson, 907 269-2029 or

Northern and Interior regions: Jim Warren, 907 451-5918 or

Gulf region: Sheryl Cook, 907 335-3005 or

Southeast region: Stacy Kimbrough, 907 433-7402 or

Mat-Su region: Melissa Sosinski, 907 433-7255 or

Vocational Rehabilitation: Rita Gray, 907 465-4872 or

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