When budget cuts hit Mt. Edgecumbe High School in 2014, Mattias Hautala, among many other academically advanced students, lost the opportunity to take the college courses in Sitka, Alaska. This is just one of the many reasons why students in rural Alaska struggle to earn college degrees. These educational challenges often carry over into the workforce, with underrepresentation of Alaska Natives in all career areas, especially in the largest Alaska industry – oil and gas.
Luckily, Mattias has been an ANSEP student since his sophomore year in high school. Now he’s earning back those missed college credits at Summer Bridge. Last week, he began his paid summer internship as a corrosion engineer at BP Alaska, and in the fall he’ll begin his first year at the University Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) working toward a degree in petroleum engineering with 30 college credits already under his belt.
With two older twin brothers who are also ANSEP students, it’s safe to say that the knack for college readiness definitely runs in the family. Mattias, Yupik from Kwethluk, says that while it’s important to him to be successful, he also naturally has a passion for building and improving things around him.
“I like making a difference, and engineering is just one way I hope to do that in my life,” Mattias said. “After my first computer build, I was hooked on engineering and ANSEP. From there, I applied for Acceleration Academy and now here I am. I have an awesome internship, I’m earning college credit and my degree is paid for.”
This summer, Mattias will work with corrosion engineers at BP, taking samples from walls inside the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Using the samples, they will determine whether any sections need to be replaced and how much longer they will last. BP interns will even have an opportunity to visit the North Slope. For Mattias, that is a dream, having never been farther north than Fairbanks.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity, but above anything, I can’t wait to learn about petroleum engineering and get some experience working in what I hope will be my future career field.”
Mattias hopes to continue with ANSEP and take another internship following his freshman year at UAF. Through all of his educational and professional experiences, he knows it is important to put his best foot forward.
“I would tell other students like myself, ‘It’s all going to be over before you know it, keep your head up and keep working hard. If you do, all the little things will fall into place and you’ll end up right where you want to be.’”