Good Jobs Challenge grant to help Alaska address long-standing workforce challenges


Shane Ersland


Alaska will receive nearly $10 million to expand its health care workforce, which is expected to grow by more than 7% over the next decade.


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The Alaska Primary Care Association (APCA) was selected as 1 of 32 national recipients of the US Economic Development Administration Good Jobs Challenge grants. The Good Jobs Challenge was created to meet industry needs sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic by breaking down historical barriers in the workforce training system.

APCA’s $9.7 million grant will expand job opportunities and improve care in Alaska’s health care sector, with a focus on Alaskan Native residents.

“Alaska’s health care workers have dealt with enormous adversity the last few years, and this funding will be a great boost to our workforce and to Alaskans who depend on our having a strong, vital health care system,” APCA CEO Nancy Merriman said in a statement. “APCA is excited to collaborate with Alaska community health centers and other key partners to expand workforce development programs statewide.”

Funds will be used to increase the scope and reach of APCA’s statewide apprenticeship program, support youth career development and outreach, and create pathways for Alaskans to improve their lives through meaningful employment in Alaska’s health centers and within the broader health care system. 

There are not enough health care workers to fill the demand for services in Alaska, and job vacancies in the industry are increasing. Alaska State Hospitals and Nursing Home Association (AHHA) commissioned Rain Coast Data to conduct a health care workforce statistical analysis of the industry, and a report was finalized in November 2021.

Total health care jobs are expected to grow by 7.6% over the next 10 years, according to the report. More than 5,000 new health care jobs are expected to be added to the Alaska workforce during that time frame.

“Alaskans depend on having effective, quality health care when they need it most,” AHHA CEO Jared Kosin said. “This grant is a critical step forward in finding solutions for long-standing workforce challenges that will further efforts to rebuild and advance Alaska’s future health care workforce.”

APCA’s Alaska Healthcare Workforce Pipeline Project aims to train and employ thousands of new health care workers to support the growth and expansion of the state’s economy through pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeship programs, and a new health care career pathway that will be available to all Alaskan high school students.