At the Society for Human Resources Management meeting on Aug. 29, 2013, Gov. Eloy S. Inos announced the formation of a task force to address the transition of foreign workers pursuant to U.S. Public Law 110-229, where employment opportunities are first from among U.S. citizens and nationals residing in the Commonwealth and if an adequate number of such workers are not available, from among legal permanent residents, including lawfully admissible citizens of the Freely Associated States. This focus embraces an all-inclusive workforce where people with disabilities and unemployed veterans are also part of the CNMI’s workforce for employment opportunities.
Since the governor’s announcement, CNMI Works Target 2014 Task Force organized itself consisting of the CNMI Department of Labor as the lead agency, along with Workforce Investment Agency, Department of Commerce, Northern Marianas College, CNMI Scholarship Office, SHEFA, OPM, NMTI, NAP, PSS and most importantly, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce and HANMI, the largest sector employers in the CNMI.
The task force held its initial meeting on Sept. 6, 2013, and identified key actionable strategies that will respond to U.S. P.L. 110-229’s provision of foreign workers transition by December 2014. Actionable strategies identified are:
1) Increase labor outreach and registration of the unemployed, enforcement activities, and employment referrals of registered and work-ready individuals;
2) Review of P.L. 15-108 and its enforcement provisions governing public sector hiring that aligns with the CNMI’s Scholarship investments of $84 million to date (CNMI Scholarship (1994 – date $63M) and SHEFA (2004-date $21M). This effort responds to bringing home the talents of the CNMI’s graduates from on/off-island, review of P.L. 17-1 and its enforcement provisions under NMI Administrative Code Chapter 80 Department of Labor, Employment Rules and Regulations to include JVA postings at the broadest mean which is the official state job bank of https://www.marianaslabor.net;
3) Freedom of Information Act letter to request data on position and industry classifications on approved CWs for purposes of targeting sector trainings that will be funded by the education fees recipients such as NMC ($500K), PSS ($500K) and NMTI ($400K) collected at $150 per beneficiary and by other allowable/identified funding sources such as technical assistance grants;
4) Job fairs on all three islands connecting employers and the unemployed with the main event targeted for Nov. 23, 2013 on Saipan;
5) Collection and validation of available and unemployed workforce data inventory on all three islands;
6) Establish an official dialogue with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and/or USCIS regarding employer compliance and certifications with emphasis from amongst six requirements by law for employers to, 1) consider all available U.S. workers for the positions, and 2) comply with all federal and CNMI requirements relating to employment, including but not limited to non-discrimination, occupational safety and minimum wage requirements.
In line with the above employer requirements, at its latest meeting on Oct. 3, 2013, the task force identified 538 registered work-ready individuals, with CNMI DOL taking the lead to accelerate referrals to employers for many entry level positions, identified 702 “able-bodied” NAP recipients between the ages of 18-54 that are required to actively seek employment and as such NAP Administrator to take the lead to work closely with the CNMI DOL and to tighten policies and enforcement, reducing dependency on food stamps and to increase family self-sufficiency, and thirdly, identified 301 college graduates with the credentials for employment where both scholarship programs CNMI and SHEFA taking the lead to work closely with CNMI DOL and OPM in placing/referring these graduates in meaningful jobs in both public and private sectors.
Of the 538 identified work-ready individuals, O*NET (The Occupational Information Network database of occupational requirements and worker attributes) classifications showing the highest numbers are cashiers (45); kitchen helpers (18); bus drivers (11); gas attendants (14); hotel/motel front desk clerks (39); housekeeping/maids (18); groundskeeping worker/maintenance (21); general office clerks (121); ticket/travel reservation clerks (7); sales representatives (14); security guards (19); stockers/warehouse workers (55); waiters/waitress (65).
CNMI DOL’s Employment/Placement and Enforcement Divisions will be closely monitoring JVAs to include employer certifications ensuring qualified U.S. citizens and nationals residing in the Commonwealth and if an adequate number of such workers are not available, from among legal permanent residents, including lawfully admissible citizens of the Freely Associated States are given the employment opportunities they are deemed qualified for.
An additional 417 individuals classified as “work-ready” are pending ONET classifications by the CNMI DOL, which will bring to date once ONET classified a total of 955 work-ready individuals to be referred for employment/placement.
Although a request for five-year extension has been submitted to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, employers are encouraged to make contact and work closely with the CNMI DOL to help them get ready for the eventual transition whether its 2014, 2019, or somewhere in between.
U.S. P.L. 110-229 calls for the annual reduction of CW permits with the most recent announcement by Department of Homeland Security for fiscal year 2014 capping CNMI-only non-resident worker permits at 14,000. With the reduction in order, the task force at its latest meeting on Oct. 3, 2013, has seen a surge of 288 additional CNMI Labor unique registrants looking for work now at 1,709 from the previous report of 1,421 total active registrants looking for work. (Office of the Governor)