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The roadmap of reform for higher education

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The idea that much of what a college graduate learned in school will turn out to be quite irrelevant at work is a prevalent one. Certainly, there may be a lot of anecdotal evidence to support this notion. However, the fact remains that a strong academic foundation is critical to one’s success and continuing upward mobility in the workplace.

Unfortunately, it is also a fact that the job prospects for the 500,000 or so college graduates that come marching out of the hallowed halls of the academe every year are not that bright. The National Statistics Office Labor Force Survey shows that “despite the attainment of a college diploma, college graduates comprised at least 18 percent of the total unemployed, the third highest share in terms of educational attainment from 2006 to 2011.”

College graduates have difficulty getting jobs for a number of reasons. For instance, there simply are not enough job prospects in their field of specialization, or they discover that the pay rate for entry-level positions is rather low. More often than not, however, the average college graduate misses out on a lot of job opportunities simply because he/she lacks the commensurate communication skills and competencies that will get him/her hired.

This is sad because there are actually many job vacancies right now, particularly in the IT BPM (information technology and business process management) industry. Jose Mari Mercado, president of Ibpap (Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines) recently said the IT BPM industry hired 772,000 full-time employees in 2012, and this number is expected to rise to around 1.3 million by 2016.

According to Mercado, the skills and competency levels of job applicants have always been a cause for concern for employers, but the shortfall is rather pronounced in the IT BPM industry where the potential for growth is such that the demand for talent far outstrips the supply coming from our universities and colleges.

To meet the shortfall, Mercado said, Ibpap is working very closely  with the Commission on Higher Education to propagate the Service Management Program (SMP) specialization track among SUCs (state universities and colleges) and HEIs (private higher education institutions.) SMP, as defined by CHEd Memorandum Order 6 and 36 series 2012, is made up of 15 units of electives and six units of internship. This specialization track is prescribed for the BSBA or BSBM and BS IT degree programs. The electives (business communication, BPO fundamentals, service culture and systems thinking) are designed to calibrate the BA or IT graduate’s competencies and skills with industry standards.

Of course, the success of any education initiative ultimately rests on the quality of the faculty. Ibpap has been running SMP teacher-training activities precisely to address this issue.

The most recent, organized for selected faculty from the BA, IT and language departments of Cavite State University, Laguna State Polytechnic University and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, was concluded last May 24 at Asia Pacific College.

Carmelita Yadao-Sison, CHEd director for legal affairs, addressed the graduating faculty. Here are excerpts from her remarks:

“Faculty members in the state universities and colleges share the same mission and vision of pursuing philosophies, objectives, thrusts and strategies of higher education as that of their counterparts in the private sector. But what sets you apart is the fact that all SUCs are recipients of so much public funds and government support since you are also expected to provide access to quality education to those less endowed yet deserving members of society.”

“The program of collaboration between academe and industry is made possible through the P500 million for growth area funds that President Benigno S. Aquino III and [Budget] Secretary Florencio Abad made sure included the IT BPM industry among the recipients.”

“No doubt, the IT BPM industry has propelled this country to the heights of phenomenal economic growth at the present time. But we do not want to be complacent so we will continue these programs and initiatives with partner Ibpap and partner [HEIs] like the Asia Pacific College led by its president, the indefatigable Dr. Paulino Tan. He is one of CHEd’s pillars in the ICT program, being the chair of our technical panel in that discipline.”

“So you see, ladies and gentlemen, there is now a leveling of the playing field. Both private and public [HEIs] have responded to the call of President Aquino for a roadmap of reform in higher education. This program you have just completed is a distinct part of that roadmap. You, dear graduates, are the initial fruit that this program has borne.”

“Let me now share with you these simple thoughts of Madame Marie Curie: You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to those to whom we can be most useful.”

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines.


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