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Lolo makes good on offer to place returning grads in jobs

joy@samoanews.com

Every one of the college graduates who attended the meeting yesterday for Governor Lolo M. Moliga’s Post Graduate Apprenticeship Program will soon begin working. This is a milestone for the American Samoa Government, as it is the first time ASG has called upon returning college graduates and offered them employment.
 
Human Resources Director Sonny Thompson, who administers this program, told Samoa News yesterday that all of the 23 college graduates have been placed and assigned either to ASG or the private sector.
 
Governor Lolo said this program was created mainly because college graduates upon completing their schooling return home and then they are not hired by ASG.
 
Lolo said by next week Monday all the returning grads who are qualified should be employed and called on his cabinet members to support this program.
 
The governor noted that although there are not available slots in all departments or agencies, he asked that they create job opportunities for these college graduates and said that if there’s no funding available the director should still take them in and then make amendments to their budget for the next fiscal year, reflecting the new employees.
 
(Samoa News points out that this is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Lolo Administration’s cost cutting memo that called for rescinding unbudgeted personnel positions.)
 
A sign-in sheet was passed around which listed those holding BA and MA degrees in business administration, Biology, Geography, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Pre-Law, Marketing, Marine Transportation, English and Nutrition.
 
 “We now have hopes that our workforce can be improved by having more people who are well educated and are prepared to work,” the governor said, emphasizing the importance of ethics in public service and their commitment to serve. 
 
“One last caution from us— I know your attitude is very important, it doesn't matter what degree you have— but this is Samoa, you will find it very hard to work with people if your attitude is not right… and that’s one of our biggest problems. When students return home, they cannot fit into the system because they try to express a different type of attitude, but what it takes to get things done down here is team work.”
 
So whomever you are assigned to work with— make sure that you work WITH them. Anyone who does not make an effort to work as a team will never succeed in this life.”
 
“You have to learn to be a member of the team and you have to learn good working ethics.”
 
The governor did voice a caveat saying, “We still have people who come in and punch in their time and leave for most of the day; but with the new generation, you should bring in a different work attitude and different work ethic and be honest,” he told them.
 
“As the Bible says, be honest with little things and you will succeed in great things… just like the Directors that are now overseeing their departments. It’s because they put in more than what was called for,” said Governor Lolo.
 
The governor then assigned a task force to oversee this project, placing the HR Director as chair.  Task force members are ASPA CEO, Utu Abe Malae, Budget Director Catherine Dora Aigamaua-Saelus, DOE Director Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin Finau and Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo J. Pereira.
 
PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYMENT
 
Samoa News understands that four of those who attended this meeting assigned themselves to work with the private sector. Lewis Wolman, representing the Chamber of Commerce told Samoa News that he would submit the resumes of those four college graduates to the 85 members of the Chamber.
 
This is one of the programs that was written into the FY 2014 budget — with $1Million being allocated under the ‘Economic Development/Private Sector Initiative’, which the governor says entails the placement of college degree holders in private sector jobs. The funds provide an incentive to the private sector participants to place the candidate in an entry-level management position reflective of the aspiration of the college graduate.
 
Human Resources Director Sonny Thompson, who stayed behind with his task force and the college graduates, said they will meet again later this week to finalize everything, but stated that all these college graduates should be employed by ASG or a private sector company by next week Monday.
 
“As far as open slots, the governor will do whatever it takes to ensure that college graduates (BS & MS) are employed.”
 
WHAT ABOUT CURRENT ASG EMPLOYEES WITH DEGREES?
 
Thompson said there would be an Executive Policy Order issued shortly articulating an effort to adjust salaries and compensation for those employees with degrees who are already in the system. 
 
ASG employees who have attained BA and MA degrees will have a boost in salary, if they are currently making $22,000 or less. BA degree holders will now work at $23K per year, while those with MA’s will take home $27K.
 
The governor did acknowledge that $23k is not much, however the current Human Resources (HR) pay scale for those with Bachelor’s degrees has them starting at $17K. Lolo said when he started working for ASG he began at $5,800 annually while some of the directors when they started were earning only $3,000.
 
“This move will be a challenge for the government, especially teachers who are working for DOE and making under $23K; and we are hoping that by the next fiscal year all ASG employees will be working for the new pay scale. It’s tough for us as leaders, but we need to take the challenge so we can accommodate the college graduates who have returned home from school. It is our hope that we continue to have returning college students,” Gov Lolo said.
 
(Samoa News points out that this move is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Lolo Administration’s cost cutting memo that calls for a freeze on annual increments.)
 
BACKGROUND
 
As of last month, seventy-five college graduates had registered with Governor Lolo’s Post-Graduate Apprenticeship Program.
 
For private sector businesses that participate in the program, the government will pay 50% of the salary of an employee placed in a management job for one full year, at the end of which time the employer will maintain the employee full time.
 



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