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AVEC’s First Electrical Training Course

by / Wednesday, 30 May 2018 / Published in Featured Stories

This is a reprint of an article originally published in 1968. It details the extensive, 26-week skills training course AVEC’s original plant operators received, including small appliance repair, adult basic education and diesel engine operation.

Seventeen men, now trained to maintain and operate power plants in their home villages, are graduating this week from the first Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) Electrical Training Course. The course is administered by Anchorage Community College with Eugene Short resident director to the project, Charles Wingrove, project coordinator, and six instructors. Nineteen men began the course in June 1968 and 17 are completing the intensive six-month course after 26 weeks of training. The men are all Eskimos, Aleuts and Indians from ten widely-separated areas.

Only two of the villages selected for electrification by AVEC (Nulato and Hooper Bay) presently have power plants. This is because a loan from Rural Electrification Administration (REA) came too late for purchasing materials to construct power plants for all the other villages this year, according to Wingrove. The rest of the villages selected by AVEC are in the process of incorporation and next spring they, too, will construct power plants.

The fifteen trainees from the villages without power plants to maintain and operate are being secured jobs by Alaska State Employment Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Anchorage Community College. They will go work for different corporations all over the state, Wingrove said. When their village power plants are constructed next year, the trainees will return home with their families to operate the plants with AVEC.

The Harry Gochenaur family of Grayling will remain in Anchorage because of his wife’s ill health.

The instructors, trainees and the villages the trainees represent are as follows:

Instructors:

  • Charles Wingrove, project coordinator and instructor
  • John Vincent, guidance counselor and basic adult education
  • Bill O’Mahoney, electrical instructor
  • Maurice Vermillion and Paul Thomas, diesel instructor and instructional aide and adult basic assistant 

Trainees:

  • Yaco Tinder – Kasigluk
  • Thomas Joseph – Hooper Bay
  • Larry Westlake – Kiana
  • Posen Alexie, Pavilla Bayayok – Togiak
  • Thomas Kameroff, Pius Kassock – Emmonak
  • Franklin Simon, Delwood Atoruk – Huslia
  • Harry Gochenaur, Frederick Howard – Grayling
  • Willard Outwater, Gene Sampson – Noorvik
  • Elmer Manook, Maurice McGinty – Nulato
  • Tony, Warren Ramoth – Selawik

The training included job-related and remedial adult basic education, basic electricity, house-wiring, small appliance repair, diesel engine operation and maintenance, diesel generator electric power production and maintenance, and high-voltage electric distribution system upkeep overhead and underground. (The Salvation Army sent over small household appliances that the trainees repaired and returned to be sold.)

Completing this course is quite an achievement for these men since when they began training last June, their educational levels ranged from two months to nine years of formal schooling. They have taken field trips to Portage Glacier, Mt. Alyeska (where they rode the ski lift and had lunch), Palmer Experimental Farms, and Eklutna Power Station for a picnic at Mirror Lake with their families. They also visited Ft. Richardson and Ft. Elmendorf where they saw the Thunderbirds (the famous U.S. Air Force flying team). They visited shops, stores and businesses that were related to the training in Anchorage.

The determination some of the men held to finish the course was demonstrated by one trainee, Pius Kassock of Emmonak. He was injured when a fire broke out in his boarding house and he had to jump from his third-floor window. He fell hard, cracking two vertebrae in his back and sustaining bad cuts on his arm. Thomas Kameroff, another trainee, found him on the ground, stopped the bleeding and ran about two blocks for an ambulance. The doctor credits him with saving Kassock’s life. Kassock returned to school after losing only six days with a brace on his back and walking on crutches. He graduates with the Class on December 13.

Forty more trainees are being selected by the State Labor Department, making up a new class that begins January 13, 1969. Those interested in the next course should write: Department of Labor, Memo to Wayne Hussey, 509 Barrow, Anchorage, 99501.

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