PUBLISHED: 4:27 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A perfect fit
Job center offers tips for finding employment in SE Alaska
It's an amazing and satisfying feeling to land a desired job. At the Juneau Job Center, they celebrate success by ringing a bell, and not just any bell-a bronze cow bell.

"We see a number of them come in who put in a lot of work to find a job. When they come in and they're excited, we're happy and excited too," said manager Michael Hutcherson. "We encourage them to ring the cow bell and tell their story. Heads pop out of offices; people in resources who don't even know these people join in and clap."

Photo by Abby LaForce
  Michael Hutcherson, left, manager, and John Wright, employment specialist, keep things lively at the Juneau Job Center. For more information on jobs available in Southeast Alaska, go online to
Every year thousands of people inquire about working and living in Alaska.

Opportunities are available for job seekers, they just need to know where and how to look.

Throughout Southeast Alaska, job centers offer guidance for potential employees with helpful online programs. Beginning May 2006, the Center has been using the program the Alaska Labor Exchange System, referred to ALEXSYS on the State Web site. The program can be accessed online at

"There's a lot more information that's accessible from anywhere that has Internet access. We also offer assistance with programs here," Hutcherson said.

"The advantage of this system is it's truly a testament to technology where it is and where its capabilities are. If I'm looking for a job, I can do my resume and set up job alerts and make it available online and look for jobs. On the flip side, employers can find resumes online and screen those and look for those who fit what they're looking for. With this new system, it takes care of in house needs and internal needs," he said.

"It's still fairly new and a new concept-you couldn't do that before in the old program," said employment special John Wright, of Juneau Job Center.

As of June 2007, Alaska's seasonal adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.9 percent compared to the unchanged national rate of 4.5 percent, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

While Alaska's unemployment rates tend to be between one and two percentage points higher than the nation's, it's not due to the state's economy but Alaska's seasonal employment patterns that create more short-term unemployment.

Seafood process, construction and government all had yearly gradual declines; however, the oil and gas industry added 800 jobs from June 2006 to June 2007.

With the addition of Juneau's Home Depot and Wal-Mart, opportunities are on the rise.

Hutcherson believes that the real challenge Southeast Alaska communities are struggling with is with the creation of more jobs, what kind of living standards to they provide.

"You can create a lot of $10 (per hour) jobs, but in the local labor market that's not a living wage. I think what has to happen is that we, the Department of Labor, needs to do a better job marketing and what we have to offer by way of the Job Bank and work ready services," he said.

"I think employers need to be aware of that group entering the workforce that may fill these jobs, but where do their strengths lie, and how do you make it fit? t may not be the perfect fit but how do you provide concessions without compromising values and missions that make that fit work."

On the potential employee's side, there are strategies to stand out among other applicants, and snag a job that fits well and provides a living wage.

"I think job seekers need to do research and homework besides, 'what do I put on my resume?' And, doing a little extra to make them stand out above the competition because there is competition," Hutcherson said.

"The well-prepared individual really outshines the rest of the competition. It's not the big things but the little things that make them stand out. It's that person who did their homework, had a nice presentation and an idea how to make themselves be an asset to this potential place of employment."

Wright's advice is "go in with an understanding of what the employer's needs are, especially if you have some current information of what that company has for growth and addressing that topic in the interview."

Additional tips are never write a resume, cover letter or any kind of correspondence to an employer unless applicant has vacancy announcement.

"That vacancy announcement comes straight from that person judging you in an interview. When writing a resume and responding to these interview questions, tie back into that vacancy announcement, which equates to that employer's needs," Hutcherson said.

"I never go into a grocery store without a shopping list, so I would never go into an interview without a 'shopping list' of my strengths, characteristics, and positive attributes that I have that benefit employer," he said.

At the center, they have 396 job orders since June 1, which represent 652 openings, Wright said.

"If you are an individual in this town and want to work, there are a lot of opportunities in this town. I think it's an exciting time for this community. Juneau is at a time where they have to grow and create other opportunities," Hutcherson said.

For more information visit