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  • By Aline Yamashita

Minimum to the max

We know that the minimum wage increase to $8.25 did not impact Guam's economy. Guam's unemployment rate decreased, inflation declined and the GDP increased. Our public school dropout rate decreased.

There are a relatively small number of employees in the minimum wage bracket. They work really hard and often have more than one job.

Businesses welcome these workers as entry workers and hope that they perform well and earn a steady pay increase. The study should be on the Department of Labor website.

The issue, for me, is wider. Many of our family members want to work. The strengthening of particular policies and programs will help them be prepared for work and get work.

At a practical level, there?s our mass transit system. The new vans and buses are finally rolling. Former Executive Manager Cabana ordered those. Rudy had a whole plan which needs to be implemented to help our families and businesses. Reliable transportation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week would greatly help our workers get to and from work. Businesses welcome workers but when they are consistently late or absent, they have to let them go.

Reliable transit service is a huge step for job security.

Some of us need accommodations to do the job well. Not too long ago, the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act strategic plan was developed by the Department of Labor. This work needs to be prioritized as it help agencies partner in an effort to help those of us with disabilities find work and, actually work. There is ample evidence that show that the employees with special needs are reliable, dedicated workers. As assets to organizations, more and more businesses across the nation are hiring them because they see the value of human capital we bring to work and they appreciate the return on investment.

Guam needs to strengthen its efforts to help each individual succeed in the world of work. WIOA is a good place to anchor the priorities. As well, every business knows the importance of self confidence, self esteem, and critical thinking. Those foundational skills can project a person's degree of success in just about anything. This is where early childhood education enters. Investment in high quality developmentally appropriate schooling in the first 8 years of life delivers later on. For every dollar invested during the early years, there is a return on $5-$8 in less crime, greater graduation rates, less teen pregnancies, greater employment. Early childhood education includes parenting support. As being a parent is the most important job, it is also the only job that has no training requirements. Especially in this millennium, how to parent requires focus and support.

Guam needs to make early childhood education a top priority. Teacher reformulation, standards, evaluation processes needs to address how to best prepare students for the world of work and life, in general. Yes, the amount of money workers earn is an essential key to quality of life. But please know that there are many aspects that can raise the minimum to the maximum.

Aline Yamashita is an educator and former senator. Send feedback to

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