Sens. Edith E. DeLeon Guerrero (D-Saipan) and Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) have urged the Northern Marianas Technical Institute board of trustees to resume operations of NMTI.
In a letter Wednesday to the NMTI board chair Mario Valentino, Deleon Guerrero and Manglona said the “lack of communication” and “unclear reasoning” to stop NMTI operations is greatly disappointing, especially during a time when the skills learned at NMTI can help the islands and for the students’ brighter futures.
With the closure of NMTI, approximately 100 students are affected, the senators said, not accounting for the additional 120 students that are on the waiting list for the next “module” cycle.
They said 30 of the current NMTI students are pursuing their high school diploma equivalent in trade and vocational certifications, such as the National Center for Construction Education and Research certification. “This means that these students are being displaced from furthering their educational and vocational career at a CNMI-based institution,” the senators said.
DeLeon Guerrero and Manglona said these students require the help of the government more than ever to ensure a productive future for themselves, their loves ones, and the entire CNMI.
They said NMTI’s overall biggest concern are the students and that, by ceasing operations, none of its purposes are being fulfilled and the students’ future, educational, and professional careers are being discarded.
The senators pointed out that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres himself stressed the need for foreign labor (3,000 additional construction workers) to rebuild the CNMI and its economy from the aftermath of both Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu. They noted that Torres has stated in his fiscal year 2022 budget proposal that the three-year period mandated under U.S. Public Law 116-94 to bring in these foreign construction workers is expiring in 2022 and it is important “that we accelerate or request to U.S. Congress to extend the period as a result of the public health emergency, including local legislation necessary to ease the statutes governing the importation of foreign labor, specifically for construction workers.”
DeLeon Guerrero and Manglona said that in addition to addressing this concern for the need for foreign labor, the CNMI needs to remain focused on the skills and trainings NMTI can provide to the local labor workforce.
The senators said they are certain this goal of addressing the manpower shortage cannot be adequately attained if there was no budget allocated to NMTI in fiscal year 2021 as well as in the fiscal year 2022 budget proposal.
“Instead, we are closing the school due to the new NMTI board’s inability to address the transition from a private entity to a public entity, resulting in hurting the students,” they said.
DeLeon Guerrero and Manglona said the NMTI students, some of whom are from the low-income bracket, rely heavily on the government’s assistance to attend NMTI in the hopes of obtaining the skills needed to enhance their educational and professional careers.
“What is happening to these students’ tuition funds, scholarships, and other out-of-pocket expenses as well as their credits earned now that NMI is not currently operating? How long is NMTI expected to be closed?” the senators asked.