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Gov: Some cabinet members refusing to implement Apprenticeship Program

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
“If you find it difficult”… maybe you should consider evaluating your own status

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has directed cabinet members to employ returning college students assigned to their agencies under the administration’s Apprenticeship Program, which was implemented as an incentive so local students would return home to work after graduating with degrees.

In a Nov. 25th memo to cabinet members, Lolo said it has “come to our attention” — referring to himself and Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga — that “some agency heads are refusing to honor or implement the Apprenticeship Program.” Lolo said his memo serves as a notice to all cabinet members that “we expect full implementation” of the program.

“As a cabinet member of this administration, your first loyalty is to implement to the maximum extent possible all of its declared policies,” he told cabinet members. “If you find it difficult to implement the Apprenticeship Program policies, maybe you should consider evaluating your status as a cabinet member of this administration.”

The governor noted the “steady decline and the dwindling number of college graduates returning home, along with acknowledging the detrimental effects it has on building a sustainable future” for American Samoa.

In recognizing this problem, the Lolo-Lemanu Administration established the Apprenticeship Program with the “primary focus on incentivizing our college graduates to return home,” he said.

“This reflects one of our administration’s signature initiatives because it was blatantly obvious that unless we have access to intellectual resources, our efforts to transform our territory, let alone building a solid future of American Samoa, would be an exercise in futility,” he explained.

According to the governor, the Apprenticeship Program policy articulation, which “gave life to this initiative,” was anchored by two principles — guarantee a job to any college graduate and setting compensation threshold at $23,000 entry level.

“The policy was not subject to the interpretation or the liking” of a cabinet member, the governor emphasized. Additionally, the policy “demonstrated our solid and unwavering commitment to reversing the debilitating and alarming trend that has and will continue to hamper and stymie our efforts to build American Samoa’s social, economic, and political development in the years to come.”

During Monday’s cabinet meeting, Lolo issued a verbal directive for cabinet members to “hire” those college students assigned to their agencies and not to refuse any of them. He said if funding becomes an issue, it’s the director’s responsibility to find funding and also contact the Governor’s Office.

Lolo didn’t identify the agencies that have declined to hire students under the program, which was implemented after the Administration took office in 2013 — at a time when college graduates with degrees voiced concerns over the lack of employment opportunities to return home to.