FUTURE OF CNMI WORKFORCE
Editor’s Note: The following is part of a series that examines what is being done today to prepare for the end of the foreign workers program in 2029.
First part of a series
The CNMI Department of Labor is eyeing students as young as 10 years old to have the skills that will make them ready and prepared for the work environment of the CNMI 10 years down the road.
Labor Secretary Vicky Benavente said that students today need to be ready to meet specific employer needs in the future.
She said her department is working closely with the Public School System and private schools to achieve that goal.
“As early as now, we are looking at planting the seeds among fifth grade students certain work ethics and standards such as attendance, communication skills, and confidence. …We believe that those are core values that help young children understand how important these values are as the future of our workforce,” she said.
Benavente believes that 10 years old is a good age to inculcate the ideas of what it takes to be a great employee or a great business owner.
“That’s why we are working with the businesses and the private sector to put together business development training plans, which makes for a good recipe for a prosperous economy,” she added.
With the U.S. Workforce Act in effect and assuring local businesses a supply of foreign workers until 2020, Benavente believes that the CNMI will always need to supplement its workforce.
“I grew up here that’s why I understand why we are dependent on foreign workers. Diversity is good as we are on an island in the Pacific,” she said.
“The people that come here, that lay the work here, come from the Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, and other parts of Asia because we are so close to these places. If we can make each one of them a productive member of our community then it’s all good… But we will still do everything we can to help U.S. citizens and place them in jobs,” she added.
The past weeks have been busy for Benavente’s office, as they have been meeting with several companies and businesses that are struggling with their CW-1 processing.
“We have been putting together all the concerns and issues, then relaying that to the administration, who then relay it to Washington and so forth. So what we are doing is to give recommendations…so we can assist businesses,” she said.
“I know every business in the CNMI wants to hire the most qualified, best person for the job…What we are trying to do is really to get together and see where these vacancies are, educate the children and make them have the appetite to join our workforce in the future,” she added.
She said her department is holding job fairs, assisting employers from the private sector with training, and working with agencies such as Northern Marianas Trades Institute, Latte Training, Northern Marianas College, and PSS.