Department of Labor Secretary Edith Deleon Guerrero gave an update to members of the business community regarding the current status of the CNMI’s workforce.
At the Rotary Club Saipan’s meeting at the Hyatt Regency Saipan on Tuesday, Deleon Guerrero said the Commonwealth is not yet ready for the impending transition.
One of the main points that Deleon Guerrero raised was the misalignment of the jobs that are in demand in the CNMI to that of the scholarships being offered to students and would-be employees.
In her presentation, Deleon Guerrero showed the majors that Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance focused on.
It showed the top three of the SHEFA’s investment focused on social science/fine arts with 25 percent, education with 24 percent, and medical and allied fields with 16 percent.
It also showed that only 2 percent of SHEFA’s investment focused each on engineering-related fields, tourism and hospitality, and accounting and economics.
“We know what’s driving the CNMI economy. We know which industry is heavy but as you can see, you can see the percentage of investment or where it’s at. So are we aligned? That’s the question. Obviously not,” Deleon Guerrero said.
“The data shows that we’re really misaligned,” she added.
However, she said that this specific problem is already being addressed.
“That is being addressed by the scholarship programs as we move forward in transitioning out,” Deleon Guerrero said.
Another thing that Deleon Guerrero pointed out is that more workers are needed on top of the current local workforce because of new developments that are coming in the CNMI. An estimate of more than 10,000 employees is required for planned additional rooms of almost 4,000 in the islands.
“The CNMI does not have sufficient local workforce to populate the growing private sector pipeline,” she said.
According to Deleon Guerrero, the U.S. federal government is being made aware of these concerns of the CNMI in an annual report that was mandated to the Commonwealth after the extension of the CW visas.
“With the growing economy, we still are going to run into a shortage of workers regardless whether we have 5,000 from those that are not looking for work right now, even if they come back into the market, it’s still going to be a huge gap,” Deleon Guerrero said.