Vocational Programs

A sailor’s advice: Keep studying and stay the course 

A seaman on escort tugboats based in Valdez, Jordan Irwin is the son of Michael Irwin of Nenana and Veronica Lord Irwin of Yakutat. His maternal grandparents are Gilbert and Nellie Lord of Yakutat and his paternal grandparents are Jack and Jenny Irwin of Nenana. Jordan’s family includes his girlfriend, Melanie Rodriguez, and her three children, aged 14 to 21.

Jordan Irwin traces a lifelong love of the water to his growing-up years in Juneau, where he attended Juneau-Douglas High School and began working on commercial fishing boats. Jobs on the North Slope and as a truck driver led him to look for a career that combined interests in travel, the outdoors and the sea. Although both of his parents earned advanced degrees, Jordan left high school with just one credit to go. He earned his GED in 2011.

“I was sick of school,” he recalled. “I like to be outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, doing photography. Being in an office, behind a computer, just wasn’t for me.” He credits his girlfriend, Melanie, for inspiration to continue his education at 41. “I believe everything happens for a reason,” Jordan said.

In 2013, he returned to school, first to attend the AVTEC Maritime Training Center, a Coast Guard-approved training center in Seward, and then in 2020 to enroll in Seattle-based MITAGS, the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies. A short-term vocational scholarship from Doyon Foundation helped Jordan complete radar training at MITAGS in 2020. He’s working toward additional credentials, eventually leading to the rank of captain or licensed third mate responsible for driving a vessel. “I know I can do it,” Jordan said.  

A professional highlight in 2010 involved him in oil-spill response at Point Lena, where a cruise ship ran aground near Juneau and sank in 1952 with an estimated 300,000 gallons of bunker fuel and oily water aboard. Jordan was employed by a contractor working to extract hazardous material, which was transported to a waste-oil recycling center. Salvage required divers to pump oil at 200 feet and took about a month, Jordan said, adding, “Nothing leaked.”

Today, Jordan works on tugboats operated by Edison Choest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation services company contracted to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. ECO provides spill response and escort tugboats for North Slope oil tankers transiting Prince William Sound. A typical workday may see Jordan help dock or undock two tankers a day as they arrive or depart the oil pipeline terminus at Valdez. Tug escort begins and ends at Cape Hinchinbrook, about 80 miles from the Valdez port.

Merchant mariners like Jordan advance by completing a series of credentials, known as endorsements, to qualify for higher wages on larger vessels and in highly skilled categories such as the bridge, where navigation occurs. To realize his goal of becoming captain, Jordan is completing courses at MITAGS and the Alaska Maritime Training Center as his budget and work schedule permit. Typical shifts are two months at sea followed by one month at home. MITAGS courses may run four weeks and cost $10,000 each, prompting Jordan to rely on help from his parents as well as scholarships from Native corporations in addition to Doyon Foundation.

He’s optimistic about his career and realistic about his time and finances. “The maritime industry will always be around,” Jordan said. “There are great opportunities.” Long stretches away from home are hard, but worth the sacrifice so that his family has a future, he said. His advice to other students: “Keep studying and stay the course.”

Doyon Foundation is pleased to provide scholarship funding to vocational students like Jordan. In addition to the short-term vocational scholarship, which cover the cost of the course or training up to $3,000, vocational students are also eligible for the Foundation’s basic scholarships, which range from $1,600 to $2,400 per semester, and competitive scholarships, which range from $7,000 to $11,000. Learn more about the Foundation’s vocational scholarship opportunities on our blog.

Funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program; Apply by May 17

Doyon Foundation students enrolled in vocational/technical programs are encouraged to apply for a 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship, funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program. Both part-time and full-time vocational students are eligible to apply. The application deadline is Monday, May 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.

“This scholarship is optimal for students who are pursuing a vocational education while also working,” says Purestyn Milk, Doyon Foundation scholarship manager. “We understand the difficulties of balancing work with school, and we’re grateful for Alyeska’s partnership to help support these students.”

The scholarship is specifically for students in programs focused on one of the following discipline areas:

  • Heavy equipment/diesel mechanics
  • Process technology/instrumentation
  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Electrical training
  • CDL

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Be enrolled to Doyon, Limited or be the child of an original enrollee
  • Be accepted or enrolled in a one- to three-year program in one of the focus discipline areas (described above)
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0

To apply, interested students should complete Doyon Foundation’s 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship application, available online at www.doyonfoundation.com. Note that students will not apply specifically for the Alyeska scholarship, but should complete the general competitive scholarship application. The applications will then be reviewed following the Foundation’s competitive scholarship review process.

For additional details on eligibility and the application and selection process, please review the Foundation’s scholarship resource handbook. Applications are due no later than Monday, May 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Applications must be submitted online via the Foundation website.

For more information or assistance, please contact Doyon Foundation at scholarships@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Many students hear the word “scholarship” and think it’s just for students pursuing a traditional four-year degree at a university. But at Doyon Foundation, we have scholarships for everything from short-term vocational courses to doctorate programs. Whatever educational goals and career dreams you have, Doyon Foundation has the scholarship for you!

Let’s start with the definition of a “vocational student.” Vocational education is defined as “organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.” In other words, “vocational students” can be studying almost anything!

But don’t take our word for it. “Continue your education even if it is through a vocational, chartered or trade school. Your opportunities are endless,” says Cory Ennes, who received our short-term vocational scholarship last November. Cory, who was born and raised in Seward, is the son of Valarie Boulden and Orrie Ennes, and the grandson of Robert and Helen Olsen, and Orlie L. Ennes and Rita David.

Cory, who currently works as Chief Mate at Cruz Construction, used his scholarship to take the Master/Mate 500 and 1600 Ton Prep Course at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward. “I’d like to complete my license upgrade and continue to advance my career in the marine industry,” Cory shares.

Here’s a list of programs/trainings our vocational students like Cory have been enrolled in the past several years:

  • Maritime training
  • AVTEC training courses
  • Real estate license
  • Non-degree seeking courses through the university
  • LSAT testing
  • Continuing medical training
  • Cosmetology  
  • CDL training
  • Inspired Leadership Training
  • Process technology
  • Diesel mechanic
  • Heavy equipment
  • Aviation technology
  • Construction management
  • Carpentry
  • Allied health
  • Welding
  • Dental
  • Certified Medical Assistant
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Pharmacology tech
  • Paramedic
  • Culinary arts
  • Business management
  • Applied business
  • Esthetician

We know different students have different needs, so we are pleased to offer several different scholarships to help our vocational students get where they want to go:

  • Our short-term vocational scholarship is available to students in non-degree-seeking programs that are less than 120 hours and less than one year in duration. These scholarships cover the cost of the course or training – up to $3,000 – and are available year-round.
  • Vocational students enrolled in a degree-seeking program longer than 120 hours or one year, are eligible for:
    • Our basic scholarship, which ranges from $1,600 for part-time students to $2,400 for full-time students. These are awarded three times a year: for the spring, summer and fall semesters.
    • Our competitive scholarships, which range from $7,000 to $11,000, and are awarded once per year in the fall.

So are you eligible for a Doyon Foundation scholarship? Make sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

Now that’s settled, let’s talk about how to apply for a vocational scholarship. The application process for vocational students is the same as all other Foundation students. Applications are accepted online through the scholarship portal at doyonfoundation.com. If you’re applying for a basic or competitive scholarship, applications are due by the following dates:

  • March 15 – basic scholarships for the summer semester
  • May 15 – Basic scholarships for the fall semester, and competitive scholarships for the next academic year
  • November 15 – Basic scholarships for the spring semester

Applications for the short-term vocational scholarships are accepted year-round.

“Receiving the Doyon Foundation scholarships, I have been very honored and appreciative of the financial support given throughout my career,” Cory says of his scholarship. “By receiving the scholarship, I’m able to focus on the most important aspect of school: learning. Thank you for your investment in vocational students like myself and in our education; it means a lot.”

Cory reminds students that educational and career success isn’t just about taking classes and passing tests: “Having a mentor or a couple of mentors in the field of your choice is an excellent asset to help you excel and great to have for guidance and direction. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or questions you don’t know,” he says.

Want to dive into all the details? Review our scholarship resource handbook, our scholarship brochure, and our vocational scholarship brochure.  Still have questions or need help? Contact us: scholarships@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Are you interested in a union apprenticeship? To give you a hand, we’ve compiled the following helpful information on unions in Alaska and highlights of their application, interview and training processes. Be sure to check the union websites and contact them directly to confirm the most up-to-date information.

Remember, Doyon Foundation offers short-term vocational scholarships for programs less than 120 hours, and vocational students enrolled in a program over 120 hours are eligible for our basic and competitive scholarships! Get all the details in our scholarship resource handbook.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

  • IBEW accepts applications year-round and performs interviews quarterly
  • Busy season is in spring and summer

Carpenters Union Apprenticeship

  • Consists of a six-week class and student can start right after

Plumbers & Pipefitters Apprenticeship

  • Accepts applications year-round
  • Interviews are done every 3 months and are put on a ranking list
  • The student can start working right after completing classes

Laborers Union

  • Accepts applications year-round
  • General construction season starts between April and May

Doyon is supporting my endeavor toward a career in the electrical field”

spencerA Doyon Foundation student pursuing his certificate in industrial electricity, Spencer Brown is scheduled to graduate from the Alaska Vocational Technical School (AVTEC) in June 2020. His parents are Nadene and Chad Brown; Nadene is from the McGrath area and Chad is from Anchorage. His maternal grandparents are Alice Verdene and Richard Anslement, both of the McGrath area.

Spencer has received a competitive scholarship awarded by Doyon Foundation. He is a 2019 high school graduate from Enlightium Academy and lives in Seward, where AVTEC is located.

Spencer understands the power of setting goals. “My plans for the next six months are to stay focused on school, work hard and finish at the top of my class,” he says. Beyond that, he’s eager to enter the workforce and keep learning.

“Doyon Foundation graciously offered to help support my endeavor,” Spencer says. His scholarship helped cover costs of tuition as well as tools needed for AVTEC classes. “Doyon helped me overcome this challenge.”

A tour of AVTEC introduced him to the range of topics covered in the industrial electricity certificate. Day-to-day homework involves Spencer in practical applications of mathematical principles and theory.

“I love that I’m able to figure out such things as superposition, sine waves and Thevenin and Norton equivalents,” he says. “Everything I learn has a reason and a purpose. It’s an incredibly interesting and diverse field.”

Graduates in industrial electricity are in demand as construction and maintenance electricians, controls technicians, and marine engineers, among other careers. AVTEC’s program attracts detail-oriented students who enjoy solving complex technical projects – a passion Spencer discovered when he was 14 and helped his father with a building project.

Spencer continues to value teamwork. “I’d say the most fun part of industrial electricity is the cooperation among my peers to complete various labs and projects,” he says. Among the most challenging tasks was memorizing complex diagrams and functions in a mathematical logic class.

Students in Spencer’s field demonstrate proficiency in circuit analysis, including an ability to design, build, test and troubleshoot circuits and devices. Industrial electricity classes involve physics; industrial safety and health; renewable power; and an understanding of the National Electrical Code for construction and maintenance projects.

Founded in 1969, AVTEC is the only career and technical education center for post-secondary students statewide. “I would absolutely recommend AVTEC to anyone interested in the trades,” Spencer says.

While his time away from studies is limited as graduation day approaches, Spencer says that taking a break helps. “I’m putting all my efforts into studying,” he says, “but I do allow myself downtime.” He enjoys reading, hiking, fishing and composing music.

Whenever the going gets tough, ask for help, whether it’s from family, peers or Him up above,” Spencer says. He encourages other students to get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

“Respect your body,” he says. “The effort you put into your studies will determine how successful you are at them. You are accountable for your actions.”

The Alaska Forum is the US Department of Labor registered sponsor of the Environmental Technician Apprenticeship and provides job trainings to create a highly skilled environmental workforce in Alaska. An Apprenticeship is a program intended to equip a new generation of practitioners with on-the-job training and related instruction. The Alaska Forum Environmental Technician Apprenticeship includes 300+ hours of classroom and online instruction and 4000 hours of mentored work experience. The program provides successful applicants the required trainings as we work with them to find appropriate employment.

Applications for the Environmental Technician Apprenticeship Program will be accepted beginning Feb. 1, 2018. The Apprenticeship is a training and workforce development program, not an offer of employment. Applicants meeting minimum requirements will be interviewed and the number selected will be based upon available apprenticeships with program partners. Employers may also apply to have an employee join the program to earn their certifications.

Open Application Period: Feb 1, 2019 – April 27, 2019.

Click HERE for more information or to apply!

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If your program starts on or after July 1, 2018 or later, apply to this opportunity.

The Cobell Scholarship Vocational Opportunity is for any student who has not yet earned a college degree, is enrolled or will be enrolling in a vocational credential, vocational certificate or occupational license program. Vocational degrees typically are one year or less in duration, certify competency in a specific trade, or provide a license to perform certain occupations.

Click HERE for more information or to apply.

The Alaska legislature created the Alaska Education Grant (AEG) program to provide need-based financial assistance to eligible Alaska students attending qualifying postsecondary educational institutions in Alaska.

Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year, the grant is funded through the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund, a new source of long-term funding for AEG and Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS) awards established in 2012 by the Alaska legislature.

 How much is the award?

Grant awards typically range from $500 to $4,000 per academic year for students who have qualifying unmet financial need. Criteria determining award priority includes:

  • Financial need of the student, determined by their Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)
  • Date of filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Prior recipient of the AEG beginning 2015-2016
  • School enrollment at full-time vs. half-time status

Students with the highest financial need will be awarded in order of need until funds are exhausted. Students enrolled in 15 credits per semester may be eligible for an increased award amount. A student may not receive more than a total of $16,000 in AEG award money over the course of their education.

Click HERE to apply.

Women in the Trades training coming up in Fairbanks! These classes are FREE, and applicants do not need experience.

Apply online at www.alaskaworks.org.


The Teamsters in conjunction with Alaska Works Partnership has announced a Women in the Trades – Construction Truck Driver Apprenticeship Readiness class for 2018!

Check out the details on the Teamster Training website http://www.akteamsterstraining.com/Apprenticeship.html  and then click on the link to the AWP Women in the Trades to apply.

Have you ever considered a career in construction?
Do you like to work with your hands?
Do you enjoy looking back at work you have completed?
We are offering a FREE carpentry class in the Mat-Su area, at absolutely no cost to you! You do have to apply online and complete a Work Keys math test at your local Job Center to qualify.
Here’s an opportunity to pick up some basic skills and set yourself apart from the rest! You could be a part of Alaska’s Construction Workforce!

Start a New Career in IT!

Per Scholas IT Support training offers CompTIA A+ certification and prepares you to fill a wide range of entry-level technology jobs including Help Desk Analyst, Desktop Support Technician, Field Technician, Junior Project Manager and many more. This training is free for participants.

Click below for more information on how to apply.

Considering a career in truck driving? Are you highly motivated? Do you have a solid work ethic? Are you willing to learn?

This opportunity is extraordinary! The Alaska Teamsters are accepting applications for their Construction Truck Driver Apprenticeship program! The deadline is May 19th, so visit their website for all of the information you need to apply!


Fight fires this summer! Take your red card class at UAF Interior Alaska Campus. The class runs from 8:30 a.m.-5:30p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, May 7-22 at UAF Harper Building located at 4280 Geist Rd in Fairbanks. The cost is $150. For more information come by and see Josh or call 474-5958 or see Nick or call him at 474-2765. Visit www.uaf.edu/iac.12513662_1099005846809893_984345315646938056_o

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