Guam’s apprenticeship program — designed to provide the construction industry with much-need skilled labor — has not received its funding for the past two years.

And 192 student apprentices nearly had to fork out college expenses until Gov. Felix P. Camacho stepped in with a band-aid solution — using federal funds for the upcoming fall semester.

Meanwhile the public auditor is being called on to investigate where all the money has gone from a funding source that just two years ago had $1.5 million.

The Construction Trades Apprenticeship Training Program was the result of a foundation laid in 1968 between the Guam Community College and the Guam Contractors’ Association. The program receives money via the Manpower Development Fund. A percentage of fees collected from temporary H-2 laborers at the rate of $200 per head goes from the fund to the college.

Department of Labor officials said there are 508 off-island foreign workers on Guam with another 313 pending arrival.

The precarious state of the program came to light early this year.

On Jan. 12 the college issued a letter to all enrolled apprentices advising that unless enough money was received from the Manpower Development Fund all college payments for tuition fees books and bonus stipends would be cancelled. On April 21 Reilly Ridgell dean of the School of Trades and Professional Services at the college reissued the same notice.

A letter was sent on June 30 from the college to contractors’ association members advising them that funding for the apprenticeship training program from the Manpower Development Fund had not been made available by the legislature. The letter said employers and/or apprentices would be required to pay the costs.

Public Law 18-48 created the Manpower Development Fund for the sole purpose of receiving local federal and private money and revenues from registration fees on non-immigrant temporary workers. The annual revenue collected is divided through a formula — 30% is used by the Guam Department of Labor for regulating and handling foreign worker programs — while 70% is given to the apprenticeship program at the college. The college’s allocation is paid out by the Treasurer of Guam and is limited to legislative appropriation.

When it became aware of the situation the Guam Contractors’ Association wrote to the Office of the Public Auditor on June 10 requesting an audit on the school the Manpower Development Fund and the Guam Department of Labor.

The association wrote to Herman delos Santos president of the college on July 26 stating that the college was failing to provide apprentice training which the association said was “central to its mandated mission.”

In order to maintain the college program Gov. Felix P. Camacho authorized on July 28 the tapping of federal funds from money the government received as Guam’s portion of the Workforce Investment Act.

However questions still remain. Maria S. Connelley acting director for the Guam Department of Labor said she requested the Department of Administration to audit the manpower funds to ensure the college is complying with laws regarding the fund.

In particular Public Law 23-106 stated not less that 50% of the annual revenues generated should be appropriated for direct financial assistance to students in the apprenticeship program.

Connelley said the governor’s solution is temporary and program changes are in the offing including an investigation into why $103 000 collected by the Department of Labor from H-2 employers from October of last year through the end of June has not found its way to the college.

The contractors’ association in its letter pointed to the continuing need for skilled trades in the construction industry.

The contractors’ association has long opposed the hiring of H-2 contract workers. Reasons it has given are high unemployment on Guam and abuses in the program. It sees training as a way of reducing dependence on H-2 labor.

The association’s July 26 letter and 10-point position paper also stated in part that it believed the college is changing its core focus from industrial training toward an academic one.

The position paper stated this change in direction was contrary to the law that created the college. While it was possible for the contractors’ association to partner with another institution to provide the training the association said the college had a legal obligation to fill this role and to do so with funding provide in whole or in part from the Manpower Development Fund.

The position paper said Manpower Development Funds were not supposed to be used for any other purpose than apprenticeship training. Another concern was that key apprentice program support personnel have already been assigned to other duties leaving the program without necessary leadership.

John M. Robertson president of AmOrient Engineering and chairman of the Government Affairs and Labor Committee of the contractors’ association said the condition of apprenticeship facilities at the college was “appalling.”

A team of association board members visited the college campus. Robertson said “Most facilities are in a horrid rundown condition and without the materials and tools of the trade needed to conduct a viable training program. We have not been informed or consulted in the change in direction the college is taking nor were we approached for assistance when it appears it is clearly needed.”

A revenue statement expenditures and change report obtained by the Journal for the Manpower Development Fund for the period of October 1 2003 to June 30 2004 showed revenues of $103 000 but a negative balance deficit in the amount of $505 018. This is in sharp contrast to an ending fund balance in fiscal 1997 of $959 319.

George S. Santos assistant apprenticeship training director for Guam Community College said “Appropriations seem to happen often. It’s not until the school actually gets the money into its hands that it can put it to use for the 192 student apprentices enrolled in the program.”

Upon completion of training an apprentice receives a Department of Labor certificate giving the holder the title of journeyman. The certificate is recognized throughout the United States. Currently 95% of apprenticeship jobs are in the construction industry but apprenticeships are moving into the hospitality industry as well as allied health professional fields.

Sen. Frank B. Aguon Jr. vice speaker and chairman of the Committee on Appropriations and Budgeting General Government Operations Reorganization and Reform of the 27th Guam Legislature said there has not been money generated for the fund since January. “GCC has had complications in the past in terms of receiving prior appropriations out of that fund.”

In an unrelated but similar effort Aguon is expected this year to report out of committee Bill 234 which would give gross receipts tax relief to employers that use and train apprentices.

Mathews Pothen president and chief executive officer of Guam Industrial Services which does business as Guam Shipyard relies heavily on skilled labor. The Shipyard was the driving force behind Aguon’s proposed legislation. If enacted the measure would allow the governor of Guam to enter into an agreement with the shipyard. The shipyard in return would pay $500 000 to the college to fund the fledging program from money it said it would otherwise give the government in gross receipts taxes.

Graduates would then be required to sign an agreement with the Guam Shipyard and the government of Guam in return for the training continuing to work one year of service for each one year of participation.

Aguon said “We hope to expand the proposal to include a variety of industries and not favor just one.

“One of the things we need to do as a government and in this case Guam Community College is to be able to project what the different requirements are for the different industries ” he said. “One of the areas I think is critical is the construction industry. We have a lot of our people who are well trained in this particular area. They perhaps need additional specialized training and can get that by going through an apprenticeship program. I feel very strongly that we need to put additional focus and effort on a program.” MBJ