Several months after it closed down due to a lack of funds, the only trade institute on Saipan, the Northern Marianas Trade Institute, has reopened its doors to fulfill its core mission of developing a pool of local workers.
NMTI director Vic Cepeda told Saipan Tribune yesterday that he is grateful to the Inos administration for its decision to allocate $400,000 in new funding for the institute.
The money is sourced from the contract worker’s fees that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services remits to the CNMI government.
The institute suspended classes since early last year due to funding shortfalls for teachers’ and instructors’ salaries.
Cepeda said that despite numerous appeals for funding assistance from the government in the past, this was actually the first time that the institute was provided the much-needed help. At present, the school only has about $7,000 funds in its account, entirely from educational tax credit donations of private companies.
NMTI, a legacy of the late businessman Anthony Pellegrino, was established in 2008 and has already produced more than 400 graduates, many of whom are employed in both the public and private sectors.
The institute’s creation was spurred by the pending exit of about 10,000 nonresident workers once the immigration transition in the CNMI ends.
Since Monday, institute officials—along with members of its board of directors—have been preparing for the opening of classes slated this month.
Cepeda confirmed that the institute, as of yesterday, has 15 instructors for the following program offerings: culinary arts, hotel and restaurant management, automotive mechanics, and construction (which include classes for electrical and carpentry, among others.)
For this term, a brand new course offering focusing on power plant work will also be available. Cepeda said that five instructors—Victor Flores, Francisco Mitzutani, Gui Lawrence, Dennis Villagomez, and Kazuyuki Lizama —will be teaching three classes under the power plant course. All are employees of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.
“Our goal is to have all our students certified in these programs so they could work at CUC by December,” said Cepeda, adding that all five CUC instructors are certified in their specialized fields. Saipan Tribune was told that morning sessions for the power plant program will be dedicated to classroom instructions while afternoon sessions will be hands-on training at the CUC power plants. The three classes under this program include electrical, mechanical, and welding and fabrication.
For the culinary and hotel/restaurant programs, Hyatt Regency Saipan will provide five instructors, led by Josephine Mesta.
Five other instructors will be for automotive mechanics and construction.
This week, NMTI conducted a five-day special session titled “Prepping for Success” as a preparatory class for the initial 20 enrollees of the programs. Because registration is ongoing, Cepeda is confident that more enrollees will come in.
The school aims to have a minimum of 10 students per class. Classes are expected to begin on Jan. 13 for automotive and Jan. 20 for the other programs.
NMTI was aided in the past by funding assistance from local and federal sources. Cepeda hopes that financial support such as educational tax credit, grants, and donations will continue to be directed to the institute.