Despite its many challenges and the long road still ahead of it, the Northern Marianas Trades Institute has come a long way since its early days, according to Dante Yumul, NMTI’s Instruction director.
In 2020 itself, Yumul stated that NMTI hasn’t “really had a school year” when the institute closed its doors last March 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We picked up again to finish up our ongoing classes. So far, the students that are showing up and participating is good. This is pretty much the second week we’re going to get into our classes [and] so far it’s looking good, as far as attendance [is concerned],” he said.
Yumul has been with NMTI since the beginning from when it was founded as a non-profit institution in 2008 by the late businessman Anthony Pellegrino. Yumul went from being on the board to becoming its director of Instruction.
NMTI is using this time to make sure that the classes that were abruptly stopped last year continue, so that the students can finish their learning modules and finish the courses they signed up for.
According to NMTI chief executive officer Agnes McPhetres, the institute received “quite a number” of new students who have registered but can’t start classes until the NMTI board of trustees gives them the green light to do so.
Not only does the institute have to wait for the board of trustees’ approval, but McPhetres also said they can’t start new classes until they have the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker funding.
McPhetres said that NMTI has the lowest cost per student nationwide, but still the institute has been stretching every penny it receives from donations and funds that were carried over from previous school years.
Also, despite constant pleas to the executive and legislative branches, she said the institute has not received the funding it “desperately needs.” McPhetres underscored the need to adequately fund NMTI, saying the investment is worth it because the students would contribute greatly to the local workforce.
NMTI director for Continuing Education and Workforce Development Ross Mangloña said that the students who do graduate from the institute will help local employers save money by allowing them to hire locally. “[This is a] low cost to you because we’re trying to minimize the expenses on the [part of] businesses. That’s what we’re trying to get in the end—students that are knowledgeable and skillful,” said Mangloña.
McPhetres reiterated that NMTI needs to have the appropriate funding because the institute requires pricey equipment and gear.