NMTI: No to merger with NMC

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THE Northern Marianas Trade Institute board of trustees held an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning to discuss the next steps NMTI must take in light of the financial condition of the CNMI government.

These possible steps include merging NMTI with Northern Marianas College, which used to offer vocational courses.

According to NMTI board chairman Mario Valentino, “Maybe I am alone in my thoughts, but I actually like the institution of a trade school.”

He added, “I think it is very important that NMTI runs as a trade school. In a perfect world, I think maybe we could work together [with (the Public School System) and NMC]. [However], our focus is different.”

He said NMTI focuses on Commonwealth workforce needs. “If we need construction workers, we need to produce construction workers. If we need mechanics, we need to produce mechanics. We need to produce these people for the [islands’] needs.”

This pre-Covid-19 file photo shows the Northern Marianas Trade Institute trustees, from left, Ray Pangelinan, Irene Holl, Catherine Attao, Carmelita Faisao, Mario Valentino, Rick Kautz, and Derron Mendiola. Variety photo

He said the trade school should avoid “getting bogged down with more red tape from outside influences.” 

“I think we need to stay focused,” he said. “It is easier to stay laser-beam-focused on what we need to do when we stay in our lane, and get the results that we need to get.”

He said, “At a trade school, the dropout rate is going to be higher. These are not the academic kids that are going to college for two to four years. These are kids that one day decide they want to go into hospitality, and the next day, want to be a welder. There is just too much shifting going on. What the [trade] school provides is flexibility for the students.”

NMTI chief executive officer Agnes McPhetres, for her part, said: “The applicability of each of the programs is also different. The college is run differently. The trade school is run differently. The curriculum is modularized. The Public School System is run differently. That is why we cannot take the trade school under NMC. We cannot. It does not fit. It just has to be united under one board.”

Valentino agreed. At the trade school, he said, “progress and examinations are run differently than the college due to students enhancing each of their respective skill sets at different speeds.”

He said the economic downturn will result in “everybody trimming the fat, [and] we are starting to see it. Quite frankly, there has got to be an honest discussion with where the waste is, looking around across-the-board. There are places across-the-board in this community that they can cut resources that are being spent on things that we do not need.”

The NMTI board of trustees agreed to draft a letter to the administration regarding issues related to the trade school.

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