Bill seeks to establish apprenticeship program

Leila Haveia Fleming Staffler

Leila Haveia Fleming Staffler

Aware that the CNMI only has until Dec. 31, 2029, to hire foreign workers—more commonly known as Commonwealth Only Transitional Workers or CW-1, Rep. Leila Haveia Fleming Staffler (D-Saipan) has underscored the need to establish and invest in programs that are intended to develop a local workforce skilled in trades.

Staffler is set to introduce at the House of Representatives session today, Tuesday, a bill that seeks to establish an apprenticeship program within the CNMI.

Pursuant to the NMI Workforce Act of 2018, the CNMI has until 2029 to transition toward the employment of U.S. eligible workers, especially in the field of skilled labor. With the development of a U.S.-based trades workforce, the CNMI will cease to rely exclusively on non-U.S. workers, she said.

Under her legislation, a CNMI Registered Apprenticeship Program shall be established to reduce the shortage of highly skilled workers; establish systems for employers to hire and train apprentices in highly skilled trades and occupations; authorize tax credits for certain long-term apprenticeship training expenses; and ensure that apprentices continue to pay income taxes and participate in the economy.

The Labor secretary shall administer the apprenticeship program in conjunction with a locally-funded sub-committee.

The Labor secretary shall be required to ensure that proper educational accreditation standards are met and maintained by program providers, using educational classes provided by an institution of higher education or approved educational learning resources identified in the standards.

Staffler stated in the bill that apprenticeship programs are a system for training new generations of practitioners for trades and/or professions with on-the-job training and related training instruction.

Within these programs, a practitioner can be licensed to practice in their respective craft in order to gain employment in an apprentice occupation.

The lawmaker said other U.S. jurisdictions such as Guam, Hawaii, and Alabama have implemented necessary laws and apprenticeship programs that aim to develop their respective U.S.-based, local workforce.

As a territory of the U.S., Staffler said it is imperative to mirror these programs to provide the people in the CNMI with access to the education and training for the necessary skills they need to obtain employment, become financially self-sufficient, to support their families, and to contribute to the CNMI economy.

She noted that CNMI Public Law 15-5 authorizes the Northern Marianas College to establish the U.S. Registered Apprenticeship Program. Yet despite the creation of such a program, its implementation has been troublesome due to the lack of an identified funding source, sh said.

Furthermore, she said, the specified CNMI public law does not require the collaboration of the CNMI Department of Labor that is tasked to handle all labor issues within the Commonwealth.

Staffler said with this program, the input of Labor will be an invaluable source to its implementation and success.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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