FORMER teacher Ambrose M. Bennett is sharing with the 22nd House of Representatives his "systemic workforce transition plan for the CNMI," which, he said, will help avert a workforce problem once the CNMI-Only Transition Worker visa program ends in December 2029.
He sent his plan to the office of House Committee on Education Chairwoman Leila Staffler.
Noting that "each day brings the CNMI closer to the expiration date for all CWs and it's a common knowledge that the CNMI can’t do without the supplemental workforce of CWs," Bennett said it is "imperative" for the Commonwealth to put forth a legitimate and "best effort" to justify the need for the remaining CWs on the islands.
There is also a need to accurately document the CW status for the 2029 deadline because he believes "that will help our argument to keep them."
Most importantly, he said, "we also owe it to our youth and to the future of our Commonwealth to do all we can to provide the infrastructure and means for as many youths as possible to have a career in the CNMI, working as contributing members of our society."
Bennett said his plan envisions a two-year program for 11th and 12th graders attending a vocational class at a worksite.
The goal, he added, is to offer high school students an opportunity to acquire training in their chosen field while offering employers a real option for replacing their CWs.
He said the program will ensure accountability during the transition process by documenting all of the CWs who will potentially have to leave, and their possible replacements.
The students must “volunteer” for the program with parental consent and select two possible fields of training. For example, if a student wants to work in the healthcare industry, he or she will train at the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. or one of the private clinics.
The students will be required to undergo a number of training hours to earn a grade.
Upon graduation, if the student has met all of the employer’s expectations, he or she will be automatically placed in the position he or she trained for.
"The CWs will not be forced to leave the CNMI until the federal mandate has matured in 2029. This will leave them free to seek other employment until that date arrives as our workforce demands will continue to increase with a need for the CWs," said Bennett who also served as teacher representative to the CNMI Board of Education.
Bennett said under his transition plan, the Public School System, Northern Marianas College and the Northern Marianas Technical Institute must work with employers to establish a “curriculum and benchmark” for the workforce training of students.
"We can’t replace all the CWs, but we must put forth a genuine effort to transition as many of our youth who want these jobs similar to the affirmative action Program for blacks in the U.S.,” Bennett said.
He wants to see “the entire CNMI become a vocational classroom with students working at all the businesses that employ CWs.”