Education specialist Geri Willis of the Northern Marianas College’s CNMI National Apprenticeship Center office announced yesterday a recently approved program aimed at training U.S. workers while on the job.
The Apprenticeship Training is a program that allows apprentices to “earn while they learn” and get on-the-job training provided by employers, along with trade-related classroom instruction offered at NMC or other educational, training institutions.
A collaborative effort between NMC and the Workforce Investment Agency, the program is open to apprentices who are U.S. citizens or legal residents of the CNMI, at least 16 years old, and are employed.
The program would require apprentices to undergo training, the length of which varies from 2 to 4 years depending on the skilled occupation involved. Recognized occupations range from aircraft mechanic and dental laboratory technician to paralegal and solderer.
Apprentices are also obligated to attend 144 hours of classroom instruction per year in their chosen occupation.
Employers will be the one to pay the salaries of these apprentices.
What makes this program “really unique” is that it is “employer-driven,” said Willis, guest speaker at Tuesday’s Rotary Club of Saipan meeting.
Willis said she got from the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Apprenticeship Office the approval to implement the program about two weeks ago.
According to Willis, the Apprenticeship Training would aid employers to transition CW worker-held positions to the local workforce.
She disclosed that the CNMI National Apprenticeship Center Office, through NMC, applied for a $1.3 million funding to subsidize the classwork training for the apprentices. The funding, Willis said, will come from the $150 fee paid by employers that applied for CW status for their foreign workers.
“It’s an executive decision,” said Willis when asked who will approve the funding application.
Should the funding be denied, Willis said most of the businesses will have to shoulder the training fees.
Even without the approved funding, Willis noted that NMC will push through with the program as it already put in $200,000 for its startup.
Since apprentices will be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, Willis also said that the employers can ask the apprentices to stay with their employers for a given period of employment tenure.
“Now is the time for apprenticeship,” emphasized Willis. “It’s on the job, it’s employer-driven, and it’s something that would build our economy.”
According to Willis, employers have already approached her for assistance to fill in 118 available slots to be filled in. She said they would ramp up marketing efforts through newspaper announcements to further promote the program.
For more information, visit the CNMI National Apprenticeship Center Office at NMC Bldg. P or call 234-5498 ext. 1028.
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