The CNMI Scholarship Office, in partnership with the CNMI Department of Labor, recently held their first outreach in Guam.
The outreach held on March 6, 2018, was intended to provide CNMI students studying at the University of Guam and Guam Community College an opportunity to learn about new programs and workforce initiatives.
CSO chair Geralyn Dela Cruz said it is always the intent of CSO to reach out to as many CNMI students that are pursuing their degrees.
“Throughout the years, CSO has created more programs and established more partnerships that will provide students with even more access to scholarship programs they can avail of than ever before. Being able to hold these types of outreach will also help students understand the needs of our workforce and how their skills/knowledge once they graduate with their degree can help benefit not only themselves, but our islands’ workforce,” she added.
CSO administrator Rose S. Pangelinan, Labor Secretary Vicky I. Benavente, CHCC Hospital Services director Jesse Tudela, CSO Workforce Program coordinator Monique Sablan, and CSO WICHE-CNMI student representative Carmen Sablan were able to engage with CNMI students to learn more about their scholarship needs as well as to encourage them to return to the CNMI.
“We are working every angle to entice more CNMI and U.S. citizens to work in the Marianas,” said Benavente. “We’re grateful to the Scholarship Office for providing the Department of Labor an opportunity to meet with students in Guam. We were able to share information with these students about the workforce needs of the CNMI employers and we also listened to their challenges and goals.”
The presentation discussed multiple existing and new programs available for CNMI students, including topics such as:
• Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education program (Professional Student Exchange Program)
• Washington University in St. Louis and Mariana Islands program
• Train and Revitalize through Academics, Internship and Networking program
• CNMI Department of Labor Employment Services
At the end of the presentation, students were able to voice their concerns and questions regarding scholarships and workforce issues.
Following the presentation, Pangelinan and her colleagues were able to meet with the University of Guam dean of Nursing and Health Sciences Dr. Margaret Hattori-Uchima to discuss their current nursing program.
Hattori-Uchima led a tour of the nursing school and provided exclusive access to their simulation lab as well as the different equipment, materials and teaching methods they utilize on a daily basis to enrich each nursing student’s ability to learn.
“I think it’s important that the CNMI Scholarship Office reaches out and sees the CNMI students when they’re here. We’ve heard from the students that there are a lot of differences, especially in the way of life and having their support system change when moving to Guam. I think having outreach from the CNMI makes them feel that they have that support system, which will make them more likely to go back home,” Hattori-Uchima said.
“It’s important especially in healthcare workforce development that there continues to be a focus on nursing, social work, and public health. Like the CNMI, Guam also has a severe nursing shortage so I do think we need to continue to focus our resources, including scholarships, to provide support in those areas. If we continue to have this relationship, we can communicate and assist the CNMI too. It’s helpful for us to know if there are things that we can do. I won’t know what the CNMI needs unless we have that open communication so I think that it would be perfect to be doing this on an on-going basis,” she added.
CSO also met with the University of Guam financial aid office director Mark Duarte and admissions supervisor Angie Anthonio to establish regional collaborations with UOG in hopes to better serve and improve enrollment and financial aid services for CNMI students. CSO explored avenues for data collection of all CNMI graduates so that the government can identify our workforce resources.
Duarte said he gained a better understanding of the scholarship process for CNMI students attending UOG, including the process by which the scholarships for CNMI students are done an streamlining disbursement and the need to track awards to be able to comply with federal aid awarding guidelines. Discussion also focused on sharing information with the scholarship office on the academic performance of their awardees, which can assist the CNMI in the evaluation of the effectiveness of their scholarship program.
“I want to be able to collaborate on issues of college affordability by pulling financial aid and scholarship officials from the region and creating an organization that will actively address issues from federal financial aid to local government and private scholarships,” he said.
“Our goal is to ensure that we provide not only the best programs and opportunities for our students pursuing their postsecondary, graduate and post-graduate studies, but to also streamline the process for these services as well. Our students on Guam make up the second highest group of recipients for our financial assistance. I’m thankful to…Duarte for his willingness to welcome our quest to establish regional collaborations to improve the enrollment and financial aid services for our students and tract their academic performance. I look forward to building this partnership that will expand opportunities for our CNMI students at UOG,” Pangelinan said.
From this meeting, CSO will be drafting a memorandum of agreement in the next weeks to begin the partnership to expedite scholarship disbursement for CNMI residents, which will be effective fall 2018. CNMI residents attending UOG will soon be receiving their scholarships/loans through electronic funds transfer once the MOU is signed. This will cut the current paper check award processing time from 3-5 weeks to 10-14 days at the most.
CSO also met with Guam Community College’s Communications & Promotions assistant director Jayne Flores and Apprenticeship Program specialist Melvin Cruz to discuss their current apprenticeship program, which caters to Guam employers and their employees.
The GCC apprenticeship program, in partnership with the Guam Department of Labor, combines on-the- job training with trade-related classroom instruction.
CSO hopes to be able to utilize the GCC apprenticeship model to develop their own internship and apprenticeship programs that are currently in the works.
On the last stretch of their trip, CSO met Herbert Johnston, who is the Education Director for the GCA Trades Academy in Guam.
Johnston shared with CSO the wide variety of training programs in fields ranging from carpentry and automotive technology to project management and safety. GCA Trades Academy provided insight to its operations and success due to their innovative management and full partnership with the private sector.
Pangelinan noted that the CNMI workforce is at a critical stage.
“It’s important that we keep our students abroad informed and engaged with current initiatives and opportunities available to them.
She said it is important that the CNMI Scholarship keep an open dialogue with future workers to hear their concerns as they are the new generation that will be the driving force behind a healthy and prosperous economy.
“Understanding and finding ways to decrease brain drain in the CNMI will not solve the shortfall in our workforce, but it will help. We hope that though these outreach efforts, we will be able to keep our students engaged and remind them that we value their inputs. Our goal is to convey the CNMI’s dire need for their services,” he said.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the outreach is just one of several key initiatives undertaken by CSO to address the CNMI’s workforce development issues.
“Rose and her dedicated team at our Scholarship Office have done great work to make sure that our students abroad get the support they need and have an organic desire to come back home to their islands. Workforce development is challenging, and we all know that. But we have now put in place some key programs and initiatives that create opportunities for graduates when they come home. In the meantime, they have worked hard to ensure that NMTI, NMC, PSS, and Latte Training Academy get the support they need to develop our U.S. workers here. It’s not easy, but
we have made great progress in creating opportunities that our graduates can come back home to and serve our community,” he added.
From this trip, the CNMI Scholarship Office truly believes that they have opened up a channel for communication between Guam and the CNMI in regards to scholarship, financial aid and workforce development. CSO will continue their efforts in reaching out to CNMI students across the pacific and in the mainland in order to help them succeed in their educational efforts.
For more information on the types of programs and scholarship opportunities, email the CNMI Scholarship Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (670) 664-4750. (PR)