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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety,Jan. 9) – The continuing military buildup on Guam and the impending relocation of 7,000 Marines from Okinawa is expected to result in a construction boom and increased tourism that would generate hundreds of jobs, but the island’s labor pool is not big enough to fill in these positions.

With a limited number of skilled workers on Guam, how will the construction and tourism industries be able to handle the new projects?

The labor shortage issue will be tackled by the Legislature’s committee on finance, taxation and commerce in a roundtable discussion scheduled for Jan. 11.

The committee chairman, Sen. Eddie B. Calvo, R-Maite, has invited representatives from various sectors such as labor, education and human resource organizations to discuss Guam’s current efforts to address the shortage of skilled workers on island.

"Discussions at the roundtable meeting will be focused on encouraging the growth of our island’s workforce that will lead to employment in a demand- driven economy when the expected military contracts are awarded and construction on Guam increases dramatically," according to a press release from Calvo’s office.

The U.S. House of Representatives has appropriated $130 million in new construction funding for Guam for fiscal year 2006.

Among the pending military projects include the construction of the new DoDEA Elementary/Middle School, housing construction and renovation at Naval Station Guam, wharf improvements at Apra Harbor, construction of munitions storage facilities at Andersen Air Force Base AFB, construction of a new Guam National Guard facility and the replacement of the AAFB canine facility.

In its June 2005 issue, the online publication "Building Industry" cited a study released by the local Department of Labor in May last year, which indicated that the construction industry employment has continued to decline in each of the last four consecutive quarters.

The report, according to "Building Industry," showed that construction employment was down 120 jobs from the last quarter and 800 jobs from the previous year."

According to the online publication, "The problem for the building industry is not a lack of workers — unemployment remains quite high in Guam, although exact figures are unavailable — but rather, the lack of readily-available training. The rebound in the island’s construction industry has not meant jobs for the high number of unemployed, who either lack the skills or have not shown interest in filling the many vacant positions."

January 9, 2006

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