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  • Writer's pictureHPBEC

Is Workforce a Global Commodity?

Updated: Oct 8, 2021

Its Role in the Filipino Diaspora, Hawaii’s Sakada Roots & Immigrants’ Role in the Hawaii Economy

PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE TIES: The mass migration of Filipinos to different parts of the world took a quantum leap in the 1970s due in part to the need for quality workforce in the oil-rich nations. However, labor as an export commodity has affected families and children—whether left behind or brought up in a different milieu. In Hawaii, the descendants of the pioneering OFWs or the sakadas continue to provide the necessary workforce but an understanding of its past is necessary to appreciate the present. Recent workforce data show the role of immigrants in fueling the economy and how business owners consider workforce as their primary asset and describe programs to nurture this important resource, including exploring remote or a hybrid workforce.

Hawaii’s Sakadas—the Pioneering OFWs and their Role in the Hanapepe Story

Christopher Ballesteros’ family first came to Hawai’i from the Philippines in the early 1920s to work on the sugar plantations. The former Damien Memorial School student and debate champ wrote an academic paper about the Hanapepe Massacre while studying history at Harvard. After spending several years in management consulting and venture capital, he is currently working at a digital health startup in Boston. He has experience with non-profit fundraising and worked in technology investing with producers of other documentary films. In addition to his work on this project, he is publishing a book on the Massacre based on his Harvard thesis and more recent investigations into the tragedy.

Immigrants as Essential Contributors to Hawaii’s Workforce & Economy

Mo Kantner is with the New American Economy (NAE), a bipartisan coalition of business and political leaders working to create sensible immigration policies. Her team works in communities across the US to change the narrative on immigration policies that recognize that immigrants are an economic asset. Mo has over a decade of experience working on economic and workforce development initiatives through her work in the City of New York and through her work in the City of San Diego, overseeing initiatives aimed at growing and fostering fledgling industries in the border region. She has an MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management from New York University, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego.

Heritage and Culture as Tools for Workforce Training

Sol Solleza is the Area Manager of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Hawaii. A senior sales and marketing executive with PAL, she has several years of experience in the airline industry where she manages all aspects of the sales and operations cycle of the company in her area of responsibility. She received a degree in B.S. in Business Administration, major in Accounting from the University of the Philippines where she received a College Scholar Award. She is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In 2018 she received the Travel and Hospitality Progress Award from the United Filipino Council of Hawaii (UFCH). U.S. Senator Brian Schatz awarded her a 2018 Leadership Certificate of Commendation in Travel and Tourism. She serves on the board of directors of several local non-profit organizations such as Honolulu Festival Foundation and others.

Creating a Hybrid Hawaii-Philippines Workforce

Taylor Goucher is the Director of Client Services at Connext Global Solutions where he uses the leadership skills he gained while serving in the U.S. Army. Founded in 2014, Connext enables the growth of midsized companies through remote staffing and technology solutions. During his 5 years in the Army, Taylor developed and executed multiple high scale military projects while managing a $5M annual training budget and successfully leading a multimillion-dollar modernization effort. A graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, Taylor earned a degree in Nuclear Engineering with honors and was at the top 5% of his class and on the Dean's List on each of his four years at West Point. As an Army officer, Taylor earned the Expert Infantryman Badge, as well as other military awards and is a graduate of U.S. Army Ranger School.


Randall Francisco will serve as moderator. Randy is currently the President of the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce. He relocated to Kauai where he was from originally after a career in the University of Hawaii System. He served as the President/CEO of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce for nearly 10 years. Afterwards, he was appointed by former Mayor Bernard Carvalho to serve as the Kauai Film Commissioner. Upon the end of the mayor's term, he retired and continued to serve on several non-profit boards.

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