This year's Anchorage City-Wide Career and Job Fair included a special focus on young people, with the Anchorage School District busing students to the Midtown event and several employers vying for the kids' attention. 

The emphasis on youth stems from a mayoral initiative called Path to Purpose, a workforce development program that aims to increase high school graduation rates and grow Anchorage's next generation of workers. 

"What we know is that a young person who graduates high school, goes on to college, or some post-secondary education, is going to help increase the revenue for the city," said George Martinez, a special assistant to Mayor Berkowitz and organizer of the event. "I think that's what we all want: to be able to employ our own, be able to have our young folks taking the jobs that we're all going to be leaving soon."

That seems to be what's happening in Alaska's trade industry. 

"There's a lot of people retiring and we have to attract the young people into the registered apprenticeships," said Jon Woodard of Alaska Ironworkers Local 751. "They tend to not be joining at the rate that we would like them to join, so we're trying to get more people interested, more young people interested."

One of the most attractive aspects of the job, Woodard says, is the pay.

"Starting pay is $22.74 an hour," Woodard noted, adding that workers also receive health care benefits. "After your first year, it goes up to $26 an hour." 

Other employers, like Lowe's, say they're willing to work around school schedules to get Alaskans into their workforce early. 

"For 18 and over, we have positions, entry level, that can be cashiers, loaders, we're there to train," said Lowe's Human Resources Manager, Melissa Brink. 

Brink noted that the company is holding "Walk-in Wednesdays," in which anyone can walk into any of the store's locations in Anchorage on Feb. 13 or Feb. 27 and interview for a job. 

Some companies say their doors are open for internships. Behavior Matters serves families of children with developmental delays. They welcome students who may want an internship in order to explore a career in childhood behavioral analysis before investing in a degree.

"It's a different career path and it's amazing to help people and it gives you that good feeling that you're helping someone else," said Wendy Winfield, Behavior Matters' billing coordinator. 

Young people who attended the event say they left with a better understanding of the opportunities available.

Michael Ivanoff is a 17-year-old currently enrolled in the Alaska Military Youth Academy. He says being at the job fair gave him the chance to practice interfacing with prospective employers, including the Anchorage Police Department, Youth Employment in Parks, Office Depot, and other organizations like the Alaska State Troopers.

Wherever young people's interests lie, employers around Anchorage are hoping to reach more youth in 2019. 

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