The CNMI needs more workers, and retaining its new graduates could help stabilize the local workforce. That reflects the thrust of the Torres administration, according to press secretary Kevin Bautista, who said that convincing fresh graduates to remain in the CNMI and find work here is of paramount importance.
Speaking in yesterday’s Rotary Club of Saipan meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan yesterday, Bautista said that attracting students to return to the islands is one thing, but the retention of graduates is more important to the administration.
“By retaining them, we have to have the opportunity for stability, both within our workforce and within our institutions—government, business, media, you name it, within our society,” said Bautista in a later interview with reporters.
The 2019 Citizen Centric Report released by the Department of Labor reveals that most of the more than 36,000 job openings in the CNMI in fiscal year 2019 will remain unfilled, not only due to the islands’ remote location but also because of its small workforce-ready population.
The report also sees as an “unfortunate dilemma” the situation of individuals, some with college degrees, who are leaving the islands to seek better opportunities elsewhere.
Bautista said the government wants to focus on making sure that scholars from the U.S. mainland, and students who graduated from the Northern Marianas College, have opportunities to enter a CNMI workforce that is both competitive and viable, and that would allow them to be retained within the workforce.
The intention is to incentivize a lot of the local students at NMC or, for those in the U.S. mainland, to come back home and serve.
“I myself, I am a CNMI Scholarship recipient, I’m a [Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance program] recipient,” Bautista said. “One of the biggest things for me was being able to fulfill that duty to give back to the community in a way that I can, having the privilege [now] of working in the Governor’s Office.”
In college, Bautista interned in Washington, D.C. for a federal agency and for a non-government organization, but had to come back to the islands to fulfill his obligations as a scholar.
Every year, until fiscal year 2030, the allowable cap of 13,000 non-immigrant, foreign workers will continue to decrease.
This reduction of more than half of the CNMI’s working population, according to the Citizen Centric report, will more or less cripple the economy, reason why alternative workforce measures are now being scrutinized by CNMI Labor.