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Earn While You Learn with the Alaska Carpenters Training Trust

Nikki Giordano, CEO AHBA

Alaska’s construction industry is growing. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development reports the construction industry gained 600 jobs between 2022 and 2023. This year, the department predicts the industry will add another 1,100 jobs, employing roughly 17,800 Alaskans. 

The Western States Regional Council of Carpenters is committed to building up the state’s carpentry workforce in order to fill openings with skilled carpenters, piledrivers and welders. The union facilitates the Alaska Carpenters Training Trust, an apprenticeship program for carpenters, piledrivers, divers, millwrights and scaffold erectors. 


“We like to say we train from dirt to doorknobs,” says Gabe Shaddy-Farnsworth, a member of the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters. 

The training program is a combination of in-class and on-the-job training. Participants learn about concrete, foundation, formwork, building layout, sheeting and drywall, roof framing, interior and exterior finishes and so much more. Graduates earn their journeyman certificate in the corresponding apprenticeship pathway they choose. 

“There are such a wide range of work opportunities and types of work you can do as a carpenter,” says Chris Dimond, a special representative with the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters. “We are often the first on and the last off the job.” 

The program takes approximately four years to complete. Participants attend classroom training once a year for about six weeks, for a total of 1,000 classroom hours. During this training, participants earn important industry-recognized safety certificates like aerial lift, fall protection, OSHA 10, CPR and more. The other 6,000 hours are spent doing on-the-job training with a contractor and journeyman carpenter. 

“This is industry-leading training for quality, safety and productivity,” says Shaddy-Farnsworth. 

Unlike other higher education opportunities, this program is free. The only cost incurred by participants is the cost of books and initiation fee, which is typically less than $250. Not only do apprentices learn the skills of the trade, but they’re also paid to do so. During the on-the-job training portion, apprentices start at over $26 an hour plus a full benefits package that includes retirement and healthcare. Students also get a pay raise for every 875 hours of work. 

“This is a way to find a long-term career versus a job in the industry,” says Shaddy-Farnsworth.

In addition to a journeyman certificate and graduating without any tuition debt, graduates earn 38 credits from the University of Alaska. Most graduates go on to continue working with numerous contractors in the state or can apply to work with any number of the union’s contractors across the U.S. and Canada. In Alaska, journeyman carpenters are in demand and compensated accordingly. Residential carpenters earn roughly $54 an hour including benefits. Commercial carpenters earn about $73 an hour including benefits. The benefits package includes a defined benefits pension and 401(k) as well as contractor-paid health, vision and dental for the journeyman and their entire family.  

Not only does the program benefit its graduates, but it’s also good for contractors and homeowners. “A skilled and highly-trained workforce delivers a superior product and the pay and benefits create a workforce that will typically stay with that contractor long term, and there’s no better program than the carpenters union,” Dimond says. 

The Alaska Carpenters Training Trust is expanding to meet industry demand. Currently, there are about 200 apprentices enrolled in the program. Dimond expects that number could double in the coming years. The program is open to Alaska residents at least 18 years of age who hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent. There are two locations, Anchorage and Fairbanks. For more information visit


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