The CNMI has less than the average of having a 40 percent educated workforce, based on the results of a study commissioned by the Northern Marianas College.
According to NMC president Dr. Sharon Y. Hart, the Commonwealth will have an extremely challenging time in reaching U.S. President Barrack Obama’s goal of 60 percent. But the CNMI, Hart said, must proceed in this direction.
Based on the study conducted by the National Center of Higher Education Management Systems, the CNMI’s education attainment level by citizenship showed that there are far more non-U.S. citizens in the workforce that possess a bachelor’s degree at 19.7 percent compared to U.S. citizens who have a bachelor’s degree at only 12.9 percent.
The study also found that U.S. citizens in the Commonwealth who obtained vocational certificates were at 4.8 percent versus the 10.6 percent non-U.S. citizens with the same vocational certificates.
Among those who graduated high school, U.S. citizens on the islands posted a 47.6 percent level compared to non-U.S. citizens with 55.8 percent.
The study was based on the 2010 Census data.
“When the National Center of Higher Education Management Systems (through Dennis Jones) reviewed the CNMI in relation to the rest of the United States, he found that overall the CNMI ranks just below the 50th U.S. state as having adults equipped with postsecondary credentials. This should be very alarming to the CNMI, as it does not give us the economic edge to compete,” Hart told Saipan Tribune yesterday.
And, as the CNMI needs to replace the CW workforce in the future, this task becomes even more daunting, Hart said, especially as CW workers possess more bachelor’s degrees than the CNMI’s own local population base.
What is critical, Hart said, is that good-faith discussions must take place now with the business community and with government leaders.
“We can positively impact and grow an educated workforce, but it will require that we all work together, develop a comprehensive educational plan for the future, and ensure adequate resources are made available to help us, from K to 16, to accomplish our education and training goals,” she said.
She said that the CNMI must establish statewide goals that will enable stakeholders to focus time and resources on a common and committed effort. Supporting this initiative will get everybody on the same page whereby they can then set annual priorities, evaluate progress, and celebrate its coming successes.
“All of this, in my opinion, is achievable. NMC has significant plans on how we are going to move forward on this. We are being extremely aggressive, but we need to be, because we are that ‘engine for economic growth’ in the CNMI. But, you can’t run an engine when you are out of gas,” she added.
President Obama and his administration have set goals for an educated workforce that targets roughly 60 percent of Americans to earn college degrees and certificates by 2020 to regain international lead, compared with about 40 percent today.