A Pribilof Island community of fewer than 400 people has received more than $250,000 in federal funds to train locals to work at its commercial aircraft test range.
The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island announced last week that it was one of seven recipients nationwide to receive the Economic Development Administration’s STEM Talent Challenge grant.
The ACSPI’s aircraft test range will be through a partnership with Sabrewing Aircraft Company, a California drone manufacturer.
The test range is expected to begin operations in the fall, according to project manager Dylan Conduzzi. He says this grant will give tribal and community members access to technical training.
“[It] is really meant to bring in the resources that bring onsite training into the community,” Conduzzi said. “And to make them accessible to tribal members and community members so that when these jobs open up in the test range — which are high-paying, high-tech, STEM-related jobs — they’re able to jump into and immediately assume those roles.”
Historically, local jobs in the STEM field have not been given to residents, according to Conduzzi.
“Many of the technical roles are filled by folks that are not from St. Paul,” he said. “And that gap is created really from a capacity issue in terms of education and expertise. So the goal of this grant is to be able to provide training that addresses that gap.”
Programs will be offered through the island’s University of Alaska Fairbanks Bering Sea Campus. They will range from hazmat courses and drone pilot certification to tribal management degrees.
The funds also provide an opportunity for the island to diversify its largely fishing-based economy, Conduzzi said.
Eighty organizations applied for the federal STEM Challenge grant last summer, according to the Economic Development Administration. Other recipients include a Maryland community college, the University of Michigan and a non-profit in Hawaii.