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  • Pacific Island Times Staff

Low awareness about labor training programs on Guam impedes desired results

Local labor officials on Friday stressed the need for Guam to exert more efforts to attract and train the next generation of local workers in skill areas in preparation for the military buildup expected to take place in the mid-2020s.

There are several existing programs designed to build a resident labor pool on Guam but they have not achieved the desired results due to low awareness in the community, officials said at the informational hearing held Friday at the Legislature by Sen. Regine Biscoe Lee.

Sam Mabini Regine Biscoe Lee

“One of the challenges we’ve encountered is getting the word out to our community about these programs,” said Lee, chair of the Committee on Innovation and Economic Workforce and Youth Development. “Additionally, one of our goals going into this hearing is to support a larger public dialogue on how we can address some of the economic and workforce challenges facing this island, and to strategize ways to lift up Guam’s workers, businesses and all our families.”

Lee said the goal of the hearing was to highlight the employment programs and workforce services available to the community, and to discuss the ongoing work of the Guam Department of Labor.

Labor Director Sam Mabini and her team highlighted services available to Guam workers and businesses, including programs for veterans and seniors, OSHA onsite consultations for employers, job-search assistance available through the employment website and free labor clinics offered through the American Job Center.

Mabini also discussed GDOL-registered apprenticeship programs that allow businesses to train workers in specialized fields for several months.

Guam is currently experiencing the worst labor crisis due to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ blanket rejection of H-2V visa petitions and renewals. As of April the number of foreign workers on Guam was down to 139 from more than 1,000 last year.

Mabini noted that bringing H-2B workers to island to fill local jobs can cost more than paying Guam workers, but the island has relied on off-island workers for jobs that are difficult to fill locally, such as those in construction.

H-2B workers are often hired as carpenters, masons and ironworkers.

“Those jobs are the really hot, strenuous outside work. And it’s very difficult these days to get U.S. workers, local workers to fill those jobs,” said Greg Massey, administrator of Alien Labor Processing and Certification at the Guam Department of Labor.

Sen. Tom Ada asked about outreach programs GDOL offers to high school students who may be seeking career paths alternative to college.

Sen. Mary Camacho Torres discussed the challenges those with criminal records often face in their job search, and asked how the Department of Labor could lower barriers for people seeking to join the economy through business opportunities like home-based cottage industries.

Senators also discussed the process for filing worker’s compensation claims with Worker’s Compensation Commission Administrator JoAnnalynn Fullerton.

Fullerton cited a consistent lack of quorum at meetings of the Worker’s Compensation Commission as a barrier to the resolution of compensation claims filed by employees for on-the-job injuries.

Following the hearing, Biscoe Lee expressed concern about delays in the resolution of worker’s compensation claims, and pushed for GDOL to address gaps in workforce development services.

“However, I believe there is much more work that can be done to fully realize the potential of Guam’s workforce. I look forward to continuing this conversation with GDOL so we can strengthen our workforce, our economy and our families.”

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