Contributed by Barbara Hunt
Just a wee bit north of the Arctic Circle, along the Alaska Pipeline, is Pump Station No. 5; it’s a well-engineered pipeline camp built upon a refrigerated earthen foundation, which was designed to keep the buildings’ heat from penetrating or melting the permafrost below. It is a special pressure relief station which slows the oil down after its speedy descent from the Prudhoe Bay on the north slope of the Brooks Mountain Range in northern Alaska.
It is at this remote camp where Alaska Job Corps student, Nathan Hill, is working as a plant operator. The unique pump station is really in the middle of the wilderness, only surrounded by tiny places like Coldfoot and Deadhorse and Gobbler’s Knob which in turn service the isolated stretch of pipeline.
As an Alaska Job Corps Water/Wastewater student, he was requested back to Pump Station 5 by the operator, NANA Management Services/Alyeska Pipeline. During his first work base training experience at the camp, Nathan proved very capable. So much so, that his employer requested him back for a second hitch. This allows him more opportunity to train and also ensures he is totally hirable.
Alaska Job Corps Work Base Learning Specialist, Luanne Cross is more than pleased. She says, “Nathan is both a solid student and a gentleman. His employer told me that both Nathan’s work ethic and attitude was exceptional, in addition to his career training.”
This is more than an internship; Nathan is paid well at $1500 weekly. He is given direction by his supervisor but he also operates as a fully functioning employee at the camp. His tasks include plant work and collecting data in addition to other maintenance tasks. “I am treated just like a valued employee,” says Nathan. “It is great and I am learning a lot.”
Nathan began his Job Corps training in October 2014 and chose the Water/Wastewater trade because it was interesting. “I wanted to share the passion of clean water and this career field is very motivating.” His instructor, Doug Abbas, is a soft spoken man with much experience. “My teacher believed in me and has helped me every step of the way.”
And that journey was a long one for Nathan. Originally hailing from Tennessee, he traveled to Alaska years ago with his step-father. Nathan lacked formal education or training and had dropped out of school at age 16. “I had no game plan and no focus,” said Nathan.
Until he arrived at the Alaska Job Corps. And it was there where he redefined his life and created his own opportunities. “I knew I didn’t want to live off of anybody and I knew I wanted a career that would sustain me. And I was willing to work for it.”
First Nathan tackled his academics with devoted guidance from his teacher, Chris Ruge. Nathan acquired his GED. Then there were the months and months of book work, hands on work, studying and occasional road blocks or challenges. “But I stayed on track,” Nathan says quietly with modest pride.
“I know I will be 10 times better off than I was before my training,” Nathan explains. “Job Corps was my opportunity and I took it. Sometimes it was really hard but the pros always outweighed the cons.” He adds, “My step father died before I finished. But I wanted to make him proud.” Nathan pauses thoughtfully and nods, “I think he is now.”
Center Director, Malyn Smith, has watched and pondered the individual situations of the 230 students in their career training. She says, “Nathan is just a perfect and shining example of determination and a committed student rising to a challenge. He was not given good circumstances in life initially. But he turned that around and pursued his goals. We are so very proud of Nathan.”
Alaska Job Corps Center is one of 128 Job Corps Centers located throughout the United States. This Federal training program is run by the Department of Labor and the Alaska Job Corps Center is operated by Chugiach Education Services.