Fairbanks Visitors Welcomed
I've had great visits with several individuals and organizations from the Fairbanks area over the last few weeks. I have listened to a number of constituents as well as representatives from numerous organizations including non-profits, private sector businesses, and public servants. A wide array of information has been conveyed to my office and several themes have emerged. The issue of staff shortages has come up time and time again. I have been told of the need for staff of all kinds. Our daycares, preschools, K12 schools, universities, and workforce development programs all are having a very difficult time attracting and retaining qualified workers. So many classroom aides and preschool positions remain unfilled in Fairbanks due to the shortages of available candidates, many of whom are opting for other jobs that have higher wages and better benefits.
I have heard from many institutions that are not able to attract and retain essential workers such as police, firemen, teachers, public defenders and more. Many visitors, regardless of their affiliations, have urged increased investments in public services including a significant increase in the BSA to help our schools, increased support for Head Start and other early childhood education programs, and promotion of strategies to increase availability and affordability of daycare. Visitors from the business community clearly understand that improving our educational staffing will help increase the pool of qualified local workers in the long term. In short, there is a clear business argument for improved State investments in education. Funds invested today will pay dividends in our future workforce. Visitors from the University have urged increased investment in important programs and deferred maintenance on our campuses. One other common theme I've heard from those trying to recruit and retain firemen, police, and teachers is the need for an improved State pension system. Many schools as well as Fire & Police departments are losing the brightest and best employees to other states. Alaska's retirement system for new employees is sadly ranked dead last among states. This is primarily because we have no form of defined benefits. I am listening. I will support any reasonable efforts to improve our abilities to recruit and retain these important public servants.