It’s around that time of the year again when a fresh batch of new college graduates join the workforce.
For many of these graduates, after studying and struggling for years to earn their degree, a tough road lies ahead before they land their first job. If they’re lucky, they will be able to find work that aligns with their interests and the degree they worked so hard to attain. If they are not so lucky, they may find themselves in jobs that are not related to their degree, are underpaid for the jobs that they do have, or worse, have no job at all.
In a recent report on in-demand jobs in the country, IT/Computer Software, Clerical/Administrative Support, IT/Network/System/Database and General Work are among the top specializations that are being hired. In a separate salary survey, on the other hand, Computer/IT, Services, Manufacturing and Building/Construction are among those with the highest salaries for entry-level positions.
These are jobs that the new members of the workforce could have been prepared for by a technical-vocational education.
An unpopular choice
Unfortunately, tech-voc education has rarely been a first choice among high school graduates in the country. This may be due to the perceived lack of glamor or prestige of pursuing further education in the tech-voc sphere compared to a university degree, or the erroneous impression that workers in this field lack of job security or professional status compared to their peers who took university courses. Also coming into play may be the existing bias that only the ‘bobo’ enroll in these courses.
Whatever the reason, many members of our workforce are being denied employment opportunities and productive careers simply because they did not opt to pursue education in the tech-voc field.
This is such as shame because our technical-vocational institutes (TVI), if managed and monitored well, are fully capable of producing world-class and skilled graduates at par with those of our neighboring countries. Tech-voc graduates perform key roles in various industries both local and abroad. A job-ready and globally competitive batch of tech-voc graduates joining the workforce can also greatly contribute to the national income and economy.
To get to this stage, we as a country need to place importance in the possibilities offered by the technical field in providing a decent and productive life to our citizens.
A need to revise our framework
You will notice that our highly-industrialized Asian neighbors like Japan, Singapore, and Korea have made necessary adjustments in their educational system, with particular focus on academic excellence and technology innovation. By placing emphasis on citizens becoming productive and contributing members to their national economy, these heavily invested in technical training.
A local proponent for tech-voc education is Ayala Corporation CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. According to him, a vocational or technical degree should be given a prominent position in our country’s educational framework. Expanding its curriculum and significantly improving its accreditation status will help produce young graduates equipped with the specific skills that match the requirements of the job market.
The Philippines has two main government agencies tasked in providing basic education in the country: DepEd (Department of Education) for the academics and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) which is in charge facilitating quality technical education and skills development. Ideally, these two should complement each other, with no overlapping of roles that could result in conflicts during the implementation of their programs.
However, with the implementation of the K-12 curriculum, some of TESDA’s resources have been acquired by DepEd due to the need for technical experts to handle the tech-voc curriculum.
Both esteemed educators such as University of the Philippines professor, Clarita Carlos and government administrators like Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia have cited the sorry state of tech-voc education in the Philippines and made appeals to DepEd and TESDA to focus on their respective mandates, namely basic education and in the students’ academic performances for DEPED and technical skills formation for TESDA.
An expanded role for TESDA
TESDA needs to take on the complete responsibility for technical and vocational training as a distinct and separate agency from DOLE, DTI and DepEd, with a scope beyond merely providing technical instructions and training. Its purview should include thorough skills assessment to meet globally-competitive criteria, and granting professional license to successful graduates to elevate their status to professional practitioners of their chosen skill.
As the final “quality control” check before graduation and the practice of their profession, passing the licensure exam becomes a mark of pride and achievement for the graduates, a basis for demanding a higher salary and compensation for their services and an undeniable proof of their parity with the technical graduates of progressive countries.
Licensure examination is but one wheel in the big cog of Philippine Qualifications Framework which supposedly sets multiple criteria to measure the quality assurance principles and standards of the Filipino professional, technician and craftsman.
Performing this mandate would require TESDA to review and rescan its current services and offers in order to attract enrollees and be an effective government agency for manpower development.
To do this, it is proposed that TESDA curriculum be organized in two tracks that serve different purposes and will be monitored accordingly:
|Product-Oriented Track||Service-Oriented Track|
|No pre-requisite||Pre-requisite: HS graduate|
|Only product quality control||Customer and Practitioner’s Protection Service|
|Do not require higher academic achievement||Service-Oriented professions are measured by quality of service thru|
|This is measured only through quality control||It promotes respect, prestige and protection to the client and also the|
Product-oriented tracks may be in the form of cottage industries and are designed to provide livelihood opportunities at the barangay level to folks such as stay-at-home moms, out-of-school youths, drug dependents, seniors/retirees, jobless folks, and surrenderees, with TESDA providing the necessary tools and materials as well as equipment for this skill training. Some of these are:
The Service Oriented Sector/Industry, on the other hand, are professional tracks that go beyond a simple trade, and are identified by specific specialization based on the industry qualification. These will require a high school diploma as a basic requirement. These include the following:
Giving TESDA a free rein as well as an expanded role will help it perform its main mandate faster and more efficiently to address current joblessness and lack of experts in vocational and technical skills and to uplift the status of tech-voc in the Philippines.
Now that the country is entering the COVID-19 recovery phase, opportunities abound for smart investment in tech-voc education and training to “build back better” programs and systems. These may also cater to students who dropped out during school closures and reskill or upskill those who have become unemployed.
To greatly improve employability and professional development of tech-voc students, focus must be given to developing their foundational cognitive and socioemotional skills, such as empathy and resilience, while investing in learning technology and digital skills of tech-voc instructors.
In conclusion, if TVETs are compliant with global standards and are at par with similar institutions of our Asian neighbors, the “Filipino Diaspora” will be minimized because tech-voc graduates are capable of getting better-paying jobs locally or establish their own enterprises without leaving the country.
To this end, while TESDA should be independent from other government agencies in providing technical-vocational training and education, it can be greatly helped by agencies like DepEd with its focus on the basic education of children, as well as DOLE and DTI in providing employment assistance and livelihood programs to tech-voc graduates.
Young Filipinos who wish to lead productive lives can look forward to brighter and more productive futures with the tech-voc track, provided they are given the proper incentives, multisectoral support and a supportive policy environment.
With the government, industry and the academe working together in strengthening the country’s tech-voc ecosystem and reinforcing the knowledge that the “Pinoy tech-voc ay hindi bobo,” a career in this field will become a promising path for our future graduates.
Student photos by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels