CNMI Students Favor Off-Island Work Opportunities

admin's picture

Survey reveals lack of interest tied to wage perceptions

By Moneth Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 24, 2013) – While the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ private and public sectors are heightening efforts to craft programs that will develop the island’s future workforce, the latest survey among public middle and high school students show that careers available on the islands are not among their top choices.

The results of the Public School System’s (PSS) Occupational Survey have dismayed education officials, who discovered that most students dream of "big-money jobs" that they believe they will find outside the Commonwealth.

The expected exodus of foreign workers from the CNMI next year due to new immigration policies has spurred efforts to prepare the local workforce to take over jobs that will be left vacant. With tourism being the islands’ main industry, the field of food preparation and service is one area that directly ties with tourism. However, majority of those surveyed, who are on the cusp of being the islands’ next generation of workers, are not interested in these lines of work.

This then begs the question: Who will take over the jobs of the islands’ foreign workers when these workers are phased out come December 2014?

Also, with tourism on the rebound and more hotels expected to open up in the years ahead, the need for cooks, waiters, bartenders, and other entry level positions are expected to surge and the lack of interest for these jobs among the young could affect the ability of tourism-related businesses to find sufficient workers for their operations.

According to Michaelle Muña, the students’ representative on the Board of Education (BOE), the low interest for some of the career choices may be due to the students’ limited knowledge and exposure to these fields.

She said that many students want to pursue higher education to achieve their dream careers, which she described as "big-money jobs."

Although the data speaks about the intention of many students to pursue higher education, Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., said there remains a concern that many of them want to pursue fields and careers that are not either available on island or are not much needed in the CNMI.

Low wages

According to the survey, the student’s lack of interest in many of the career options were tied directly to their perception that these jobs offer low pay compared to the amount of effort put in to the actual work.

Because PSS offers various career technological educational courses at its secondary schools, BOE chair Herman T. Guerrero pointed out the need to "go deeper" into the result of the survey in order to better gauge students.

Survey results

The PSS survey was conducted among 7th to 11th graders in all middle and high school in the CNMI.

The survey provided student-respondents 10 different occupations that are not only available but are very much needed by existing industries in the CNMI. These include food preparation and serving related; management; installation, maintenance, and repair; office and administrative support; construction and extraction; building, ground cleaning and maintenance; sales and related; major title production; protective service; and business and financial operations.

Of the total 2,956 respondents, the results show that only 165 students want to be in the food preparation and serving related field. In comparison, 474 respondents want to be in protective service, which includes fields such as police and investigation agents.

Another notable result is that only 60 students out of the nearly 3,000 respondents are willing to work in construction with.

At Marianas High School, out of 940 respondents, a total of 511—or 54 percent—say they want to pursue postsecondary education and have no plans of immediately working in any of the given occupational opportunities.

Generating the most interest among the occupational choices was "protective service" where 127 students—or 14 percent—say they want to work in the future.

Those who reported that they want to work in installation, maintenance, and repair work totaled 83 students—a mere 9 percent. Other areas like business and financial operations got only 7 percent while food preparation and serving related got a minuscule 4 percent, Management had 3 percent; sales, 3 percent; and construction and building/ground maintenance, 1 percent each.

At Saipan Southern High School, out of the 398 respondents, a large bulk of 181 students—or 45 percent—say they will pursue college; 63 students (16 percent) want to be in protective services; 40 respondents said they want to work in business and financial operations; while 26 students want to work in the field of management.

The results for Kagman High School also showed a similar trend, with 41 percent of respondents wanting to pursue higher education and many students picking the field of protective service among their top option. In KHS, 360 students responded to the survey.

In middle schools, a total of 216 out of 720 students say they want to pursue college while 91 aim to be in protective service one day. Chacha Oceanview had a total of 213 respondents, of which 51 want to pursue higher education while a big bulk of students (72) want to become police and investigative agents. Only 23 students want to be in food preparation.

Students in Rota and Tinian secondary schools also want to pursue higher education and, no surprise here, protective service also came out as their top career choice.

Tinian Junior & Senior High School had 134 respondents, of which 56 want to go to college; 22 want to be in protective service. Only 10 want to be in food preparation, while only a few want to be in other fields such as construction, sales, and maintenance.

In Dr. Rita Hocog Inos Jr. & Sr. High School, 191 students took part in the survey, of which 72 want to pursue education; 39 in protective service; 24 in business and financial operation; 13 in food preparation; 10 in office and administrative work; and very few want to be in construction, sales, and maintenance.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment