Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Business Matters

Meeting demand for technical skills

With all the infrastructure projects planned by the government and the private sector in the next six years and the continuing demand for low-cost and economic housing, the ongoing shortage of such skilled workers as electricians, mechanics, masons, plumbers, house painters, etc. will worsen if we are unable to change the mindsets of parents and the youth about the types of work that they should choose.

There is a distinct bias even among the poor against blue-collar work. A feudal mentality has instilled an irrational preference for a college degree even if many college courses produce graduates that are unemployable. There is a mismatch between many of the products of our school system and the types of skills that industry demands.

It is my hope that the K-to-12 curriculum will address this sociological problem. With the added costs of senior high school (Grades 11 and 12), some parents may come to their senses and drop their prejudice against technical or vocational courses. It is also encouraging to see a good number of industry associations, such as those in the BPO, hospitality and construction sectors, partnering with high schools and helping design curricula for Grades 11 and 12 that include skills training. For example, one does not need a college degree to be an effective agent in a call center or in IT-oriented services such as medical transcription, accounting, animation, and other documentation services.

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I am glad to have been involved for the past 30 years with Dualtech, one of the most successful technical schools producing electromechanical workers. Dualtech pioneered in the Philippines the dual training system adapting the German approach to technical education. Institutionalized by Republic Act No. 7686, the dual training system fosters partnership between schools and industry. It facilitates better employment through a structured “learning while doing” approach and provides appropriate formation through cycles of theory and practice.

Over and above technical skills training, Dualtech gives the highest importance to formation of the youth in virtues and values. In the last 35 years, it has produced more than 10,000 highly skilled and motivated electromechanical workers and deployed them to domestic and multinational enterprises, especially those in the industrial zones dotting the provinces of Laguna, Cavite and Batangas.

In the latest issue of its publication Forge, Dualtech alumnus Paolo Martinez of Sto. Tomas, Batangas, a farmer’s son, tells the story of how he rose to the top of Transcendit, an important multinational manufacturing enterprise, by foregoing a college engineering course at Mapua Institute of Technology under a scholarship from Ayala Foundation. He decided to take a technical course in electromechanical skills at Dualtech in Canlubang, Laguna. Instead of following his dream of becoming an architect or engineer, he convinced himself that his future would be brighter if he learned how to work with his hands.

He described his work in one of his first jobs after graduating from Dualtech: “I mastered the art of making half threaded screw and improved the output until we had overstocks. I improved the mixture of epoxy for the contact finger to make it perfectly set inside the oven. I lengthened the life of springs, thus minimizing returns due to poor workmanship. From then on, the senior technician trained me as well on my first machine.”

He then went from one promotion to another: “Through exposure and training I was able to move up and was even sent to Germany for two months of training and production benchmarking. I always train and share knowledge with my team so as to make my work easier. I was always ready to learn more from teaching and project deliberation. I was promoted to project engineer of new product industrialization. … It was my biggest break.”

Today, Martinez is the product and engineering manager for the Philippine operations of Transcendit, located in an industrial zone in Laguna. Thousands of Dualtech graduates have a similar career story: A college education is not necessary for reaching top positions in manufacturing enterprises, whether domestic or multinational.

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Bernardo M. Villegas (bernardo.villegas@uap.asia) is senior vice president of the University of Asia and the Pacific.

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TAGS: bernardo m. villegas, Business Matters, demand for technical skills, infrastructure projects, Inquirer Opinion, job mismatch
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