Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 20 Dec 2017 12am

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    Monday, December 18, 2017-11:15:31P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Alex Sablan: Robots not a solution to NMI workforce crisis

THE president and spokesman of the Northern Marianas Business Alliance Corporation, Alex Sablan, said having robots in the workplace is an idea worth exploring, but it is not the solution to the islands’ current workforce crisis.

“We don’t know how this innovation will play out — it could be useful to manufacturers, but when you’re dealing with the hospitality industry, it is a different scenario.”

Alex Sablan

John McElligott of York Exponential, which is based in Pennsylvania, was on island recently to make a presentation on artificial intelligence and the possibility of a robot workforce.

Sablan said right now, what the CNMI needs is an increase in the CW cap and the extension of the program beyond 2019.

He and other local business leaders will join the governor in meeting key federal officials in Washington, D.C. to ask for U.S. congressional relief.

DFS Saipan president Marian Aldan-Pierce, for her part, reiterated that there are still not enough U.S. qualified workers in the CNMI.

In a May 2017 report to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said if all workers with CW-1 permits were removed from the labor market, the result will be a 26 to 62 percent reduction in the CNMI’s gross domestic product — “a relatively large negative effect on the economy.”

The GAO report said the CNMI is experiencing a growing demand for construction and hospitality workers, but local employers face multiple challenges in recruiting and retaining U.S. workers.

In another report issued in October, the GAO said the CNMI faces growing labor shortages that may affect its ability to repay public debt, including its “significant pension liabilities.”

“Planned reductions in permitted workers could worsen the effect on GDP,” it added.