Site Visit: Advocacy Visits Vocational Training Center in Palmer, Alaska

By Bruce Lundegren, Assistant Chief Counsel

The SBA Office of Advocacy met with representatives of Northern Industrial Training, LLC (NIT) in Palmer during its recent visit to Alaska.  NIT is a private vocational training center founded in 2003; it offers programs in professional truck driving, heavy equipment operation, construction and building trades, oil and gas pipeline, and hazardous materials.  Its construction and oil/gas pipeline programs are accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research.  It offers training at its locations in Palmer and Anchorage and throughout the state of Alaska.

As explained by its president and chief executive officer, Joey Crum, NIT was established to meet the demand for qualified workers for Alaska’s transportation, construction, and oil and gas industries.  Mr. Crum stated that NIT’s goal was to blend classroom instruction with hands-on training to produce graduates who are ready to work and succeed in their careers.  However, the task is not without difficulty.

When asked by Advocacy to discuss some of the regulatory and other issues impacting NIT’s mission, Mr. Crum noted that age restrictions on the use of heavy equipment or operating trucks and other vehicles were limiting the ability of high school age students to gain employment.  He specifically noted that NIT could train students at age 16, but those students could not be employed in these fields until they turned 18 or, in some cases, 21.  He said this was a serious problem in places like Alaska where there is a labor shortage in the trades and qualified workers are very difficult to find.  He also noted that drug and opioid use are widespread, and many young people are disqualified because they cannot pass drug tests.  Mr. Crum, an attorney by training, also argued that the state’s generous social benefits were a disincentive to young people going to work, and they needed a provision to scale back, but not eliminate, benefits as earnings increase.  He also discussed the challenges for businesses in Alaska – especially in sectors like construction and oil and gas – where weather conditions and remote work sites pose considerable challenges.

However, Mr. Crum is not without hope—just the opposite.  He firmly believes in the mission of NIT and thinks the school can make a real difference in people’s lives by providing them with training, opportunity, and a solid career.

After we spoke, Mr. Crum took Advocacy on a tour of the school, where we watched students learning to weld, repair equipment, and operate machinery.  It was encouraging after hearing about the challenges Alaska faces, and we got a sense of Mr. Crum’s optimism.

Advocacy was in Alaska for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 9-11.

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Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at