Championing skills for a globally competitive nation
While a degree or certificate is ostensibly the currency for landing a job or moving up the career ladder, one cannot disregard the importance of actual skills and competencies that a person possesses. We are especially seeing these shifts in perception of the value of paper certification for employers like Google and Apple, which are now saying that demonstrated skills are king. This also has implications on the education system where we are seeing a shift from the traditional, full-time, first-time student to a part-time, returning student looking at continuing education.
In the labor market where there are buyers and sellers, how do we best signal the value of hard-earned skills, instead of the usual diploma as adequate proof of work-readiness and the capacity to move up the career ladder? If indeed skills are the new currency, how can we have a standard understanding of its value, so that we know what we are buying and selling?
These are the questions that organizations such as the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), the Makati Business Club and De La Salle Philippines are asking. The response, in our opinion, could be simple and already at hand: a standard skills valuation system in the form of the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF).
Signed into law in late 2017, the nitty-gritty of the PQF is still a work in progress, but the general premise is this: Once implemented, it will allow for individuals to learn and develop skills through various pathways, because the skills that they gain can be “translated” into qualification levels. Depending on one’s level of proficiency, a person can be awarded anywhere from levels 1 to 8. This qualification is nationally vetted and acceptable, so it can be used in workplaces, credited in schools for both full-time, first-time and returning adult learners, and referenced with Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) standards.
Once finally designed and implemented, the PQF could be a game-changer for education and employment. For example, in PBEd’s YouthWorks PH initiative, youth not in education, employment or training are invited back to the formal education system and given work-based training that offers exposure to theory and practice in school and in the company. Some of these young people have had some experience and training prior to YouthWorks. But there is currently no standard and cost-effective way of translating skills from previous experience to actual qualification levels. Every YouthWorks trainee will have to start from the lowest qualification level regardless of skills. Imagine the places our youth could go should there be a way to leverage their experience and allow them to leapfrog to higher qualification levels.
The PQF is also a great complement to the K-to-12 program, which the private sector has consistently supported. In the past two years, many employers have hired K-to-12 grads for their entry-level positions. One realization from this experience is that these positions should not be a dead-end. Moreover, industry is willing to invest in their employees’ upskilling toward career progression. Mapping out these upskilling pathways against the PQF could guide professional development plans for employees with K-to-12 diplomas and corresponding performance and productivity goals.
On the employers’ side, imagine the potential reduced cost and time spent on comparing degrees and schools and experience, when an applicant’s resumé containing this information is benchmarked against the PQF. Not only that, but employers serious about becoming equal opportunity employers are given a tool to recruit based on merit and fit. The PQF will enable employers to truly acknowledge and put value on a person’s knowledge, skills and competencies gained through years of practice and learning, whether in school or out of it.
Working together is vital in ensuring that the PQF succeeds. We applaud the move for private sector inclusion in the PQF National Coordinating Council, and we look forward to seeing the wheels put into motion. Once initiatives are underway, members of the private sector can further help the initiative succeed by being actively involved in implementation, by articulating skills and competencies in their sector. Through multisectoral involvement, we can all work together to champion skills and provide equal opportunities for the Filipino people, as the world moves toward new ways of working and learning.
Edgar O. Chua is chair of the Makati Business Club and a trustee of the Philippine Business for Education. For more information email [email protected]
Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).
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