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In mid-January, I had the opportunity to meet with Seward Mayor McClure, City Council Member Demas, and other leaders from Seward to discuss their priorities for the new year. Our conversation turned to the Alaska Vocational and Technical Center (AVTEC) and the important ways that AVTEC contributes to the Seward community. AVTEC is a division of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and is a jewel in the Department that I am honored to serve as acting commissioner.

During my four years with the Department of Labor, I have been so pleased to learn about the many ways that AVTEC provides training opportunities to Alaskans in Seward, and increasingly, across the state. AVTEC programs and instructors are under high demand!

 AVTEC is a recognized provider of quality workforce training that changes lives by providing opportunities for success. But AVTEC not only serves its students, but it also serves the Seward community through its student body, housing opportunities, and its facilities.

The AVTEC student body is engaged in the Seward community throughout the school year. One example is AVTEC’s IT program, led by Kenny Laird. Laird’s first semester students are visiting the Seward Senior Center to provide one-on-one education to older Alaskans with their handheld devices, such as iPhones, iPads, and laptops. Seward’s seniors are helping AVTEC students improve their customer service and technical assistance skills, and they in turn are aiding senior center residents with educational opportunities and aid with learning new technologies.

Other AVTEC programs have also supported the Seward community though renovations and mechanical repairs at the Catholic church, senior center, and the Seward Nordic Ski Club. AVTEC Student Services Center hosts Seward’s center city as its tsunami evacuation site. AVTEC also provides the only regularly scheduled CPR classes in Seward for residents who need this certification for employment. AVTEC staff also play a key role in the community through their service on location nonprofit boards, some of which include the Seward Community Foundation, Seward Sports Association, the Seward Community Health Center, and many others.

AVTEC is also doing what it can to help with housing in Seward. AVTEC dormitories are providing long term housing for one Seward High School teacher. AVTEC has also offered space for others. The Alaska Department of Corrections has a partnership agreement with AVTEC where 22 correctional officers are utilizing AVTEC dormitories. This partnership is helping ease the local housing burden in Seward.

Lastly, AVTEC’s facilities are being used daily by members of the Seward community, offering life enrichment opportunities throughout the year. The Student Service Center is used five days a week by the Seward Park & Recreation Department. The Qutekcak Native Tribe prepares for the Native Youth Olympics at the AVTEC gymnasium. The AVTEC ceramics room is open to the public through the Independent Living Center and their TRAILS Program. The Seward Community Health Center hosted a health fair last year at AVTEC and will host a Spring Health Event on April 15.

I am proud of the critical role AVTEC’s students, staff, and teachers play in the Seward community, and I greatly appreciate the longstanding support from the City of Seward and its residents. I look forward to continued engagement as the State of Alaska increasingly looks to AVTEC to help prepare Alaska’s workforce to be ready to make the most of our future opportunities.

Acting Commissioner Cathy Muñoz is a life-long Alaskan, small business owner and mother of two. She served three terms on the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and was elected in 2008 to the Alaska House of Representatives where she served four terms.