Career Explorers Turns Three: Expanding Beyond Fairbanks, and Going with the Flow By Amanda Langhorst, Edited by Aila Berrigan

Above: The Career Explorers students tour a local business - Advance Printing. All photos are credited to Jillian Bjornstad and Amanda Langhorst.

The Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Career Explorers program was launched in the fall of 2021 as a partnership between TCC, Effie Kokrine Charter School and the UAF College of Business and Security Management. Through a series of hands-on career experiences and dual-enrollment professional development courses, Career Explorers prepares participants for post-secondary education or vocational training beyond high school. The program emphasizes professional skills such as resume writing, time management and interviewing.

“Career Explorers was designed to set up rural and Alaska Native students for professional success, including helping them to define what professional success means for them,” - Amanda Langhost, Instructor for Career Explorers, and CBSM Bachelor of Applied Management Program Director.

Now in its third year, Career Explorers continues adapting to serve a growing and changing student body. In the first two years of operation, Career Explorers served over 25 students from Effie Kokrine Charter School and four rural communities across the Yukon-Koyukuk School District (YKSD).

“Part of our mission at CBSM is to help prepare students for meaningful employment and to help meet the state’s workforce development needs, and this program is just one way we act on that mission.” - Amanda Langhorst

Left: A YKSD student receiving their certificate of completion at the graduation ceremony at the end of the course. Photo provided by Patty Woody, YKSD.

In year two of the partnership, the program has been taught in a hybrid format, meaning students could attend in-person or online. This format opens the course to students outside of the Fairbanks area, allowing Amanda and her co-instructor, Jillian Bjornstad, to lead students in experiences that aren’t possible in an online-only format and may be difficult to replicate in a village.

This year, Career Explorers fully intended to bring the program to the village; however, as often happens, weather got in the way. On two separate planes with four students, two instructors, and three YKSD staff, ready to meet the group of students in Nulato, the plane circled, and circled, and circled, with no runway in sight, and with a thick layer of clouds below. A decision was made to return to Galena where everyone waited for the weather to clear. Time was passed by checking out the local store, watching some movies, and enjoying a beautiful Alaskan day. Ultimately the group didn’t make it to Nulato. Instead, they embraced the flexibility of the program and still met the needs of the students completing a packed two-day course at the YKSD Career and Technical Education building in Fairbanks.

Right: View from the plane of a snowy and cold day when the Career Explorers attempted to travel to Nulato, AK.

“In the first year of offering a hybrid version of the program, we’ve learned a lot about the needs of high school students, and how to maximize the experience when we only have a few days together,” - Jillian Bjornstad, Instructor for Career Explorers, and CBSM Adjunct Faculty member.

The hybrid format allows students to tour local businesses, and trade organizations and get connected to the UAF and Fairbanks community. The Career Explorers program is a wonderful opportunity to connect with high school students across the state who will become future union members, business owners, state leaders, and UAF's future.

Top Left: Career Explorer students trying on safety equipment at the Alaska Laborers Union facility. Top Center: BAM Program Director, Amanda Langhorst, left, working with a student during a development course. Top Right: Students taking notes while on a local business tour. Bottom Left: Students trying on safety gear at the Alaska Laborers Union and taking selfies. Bottom Center: Students gathered around Advance Printing owner, Ben Kates, during a local business tour. Bottom Right: Students pointing out different aspects of the Laborers Union facility.