Saipan Chamber of Commerce president Velma Palacios praised the efforts that are being done by educational institutions in preparing students and other U.S eligible workers to somehow mitigate the labor shortage being experienced under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker Nonimmigrant visa program or CW1.
Palacios cited the likes of Latte Training Academy, the Northern Marianas College, the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, and the Public School System in educating students to address the human resources’ needs.
Latte, in partnership with the Public School System, trains students on the various aspects of the hospitality program. Once they successfully complete the training, the students get certificates from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. NMC and NMTI have also done their share.
“We applaud your efforts in providing training and education to our students and community to address our human resources requirements. Latte and PSS have graduated over 700 high school students since the program started three years ago,” said Palacios.
“NMC has conferred degrees to over 300 students and NMTI has provided much needed training to our residents in the culinary and hospitality trades. Some of these graduates have entered our workforce and are working for you all.”
“We all know that it will take time to provide the human resources required in sustaining our economy; however, we are making progress on our end,” she added.
Palacios also praised the Commonwealth Development Authority’s decision to revive the Junior Achievement program in schools. “Teaching the principles of entrepreneurship to our students is essential to inspire them to dream big and to work hard toward their goals. The JA program gives them tools and resources to help each participant to be successful,” said Palacios.
Palacios and eight other board members were sworn in by Superior Court Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho in last Saturday’s installation dinner at Fiesta Resort & Spa’s Hibiscus Hall. The event also served as the awarding of SCC’s Business Person of the Year with Triple J Saipan’s vice president for finance and administration Michael S. Sablan receiving the honor.
Ron Smith of Angil Design (vice president), Docomo Pacific’s Kevin McCale (secretary), Deloitte & Touche’s Michael Johnson (treasurer), and directors Perry Inos Jr. (Triple J Saipan), Donna Krum (Friends First Marketing), Tyrell Pauling (Hyatt Regency Saipan), Alex Sablan (Century Insurance), and Alex K. Youn (AC Pacific) are the other members of the SCC board.
Palacios said the CNMI’s economy continues to grow as shown by new airlines offering non-stop flights to Saipan, an increase in tourism numbers, the construction of new hotels and buildings, and opening of other business establishments and restaurant franchises. However, workforce issues continue to hound the CNMI.
“We face challenges in our workforce. Our CW-1 cap was reached for fiscal year 2016 and 2017. Many businesses were affected and the situation severely impacted their operations. However, that did not stopped us from trying to find alternatives to help us through these challenges as we worked with our government leaders to address our CW-1 program.”
“We will continue to support the efforts of Gov. [Ralph DLG] Torres and [Delegate] Gregorio Sablan in addressing our CW-1 program. We are in strong support of Sablan’s House Resolution 339 that would provide short term relief to our CW-1 program,” added Palacios.
She said HR 339, if it becomes a law, would also give the business community its much-needed labor resources to support operations and the growing economy.
“At the same time, HR 339 would provide additional funds for job training and education programs for qualified and skilled U.S. workers in the CNMI.”
Palacios added the Chamber also supports Torres’ recommendations on the 902 report that aims to address the CNMI’s long term labor requirements. “We all need to work together to move this forward.”
“Our increased communication with [the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands] and [the Society for Human Resource Management NMI Chapter] has provided a unified front on these issues that have greater impact. A sufficient workforce capacity is required to sustain the CNMI’s growing economy.”