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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Oct. 3) — Facing a national unemployment rate of 40 percent, the Marshall Islands announced plans this week to begin injecting large amounts of funding into a job-training program and named one of the country’s most experienced administrators to head the effort.

Marie Maddison was named to head the National Training Council this week. She is a previous permanent secretary for the ministries of Social Services, Health, Education and Foreign Affairs, and has been a key figure in recent years in the development and expansion of non-governmental organizations.

Her arrival in this until now very low-profile organization coincides with the infusion of at least $800,000 in funding for a broad range of training initiatives, with a focus on targeting youth unemployment. A 2005 Economic and Social Report issued earlier this month by the government’s Economic Policy, Planning and Statistics Office estimated that youth unemployment is double the national figure — or about 80 percent.

"We’re targeting youth unemployment," Maddison said in an interview Thursday. But the National Training Council is looking beyond traditional trade apprenticeship training programs to innovative schemes that focus on keeping young people in school or reengaging "at-risk" youth who have dropped out or been pushed out from local schools and are largely unemployable.

The new funding is from United States sources.

Maddison described the role of NTC as coordinating, collaborating with and supervising training programs using "service providers" to actually offer and conduct training.

The goal is to support training programs that equip Marshall Islanders to be successfully employed either in the Marshall Islands or in the United States, she said.

She said that NTC will not only be looking to support training programs in the urban areas, but also to address "sustainable livelihoods and income generation on the outer islands."

Currently, there are not enough job opportunities to meet the demands of the growing population, she said. "We need entrepreneurs who are able to be self-employed," she said.

The funding that NTC will be offering is "not just for any training programs," she said. "We need to show results and be accountable."

Maddison said she is in the initial stages of setting up criteria and guidelines for "service providers" to submit requests for funding support for training-related programs.

She sees NTC as providing a "network of training opportunities for out of school and unemployed youth. We’ll work with other programs and projects that are involved (in training and income generation activity)."

October 3, 2005

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