Boosting senior high employability | Inquirer Opinion

Boosting senior high employability

/ 05:12 AM May 15, 2024

In response to President Marcos’ directive to make sure that senior high school (SHS) graduates are “ready and employable for the workforce,” the Department of Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) signed last week a joint memorandum circular that can potentially be a game-changer for skilled students who want to land a decent paying job as soon as they leave school.

Essentially, the circular mandates the assessment of the senior high schoolers on the technical and vocational livelihood (TVL) track so that they can be certified, essentially guaranteeing employers that the graduates have the requisite skills and competencies that the market demands.

This will mean an extensive review and perhaps revision of the SHS curriculum to ensure that the students who will go through the program will finish with not just a high school diploma but also Tesda certifications that can be their fast ticket to immediate employment.

The Department of Labor and Employment, on the other hand, is tasked to foster closer links and partnerships with employers to make sure that the skills and knowledge that the SHS learners on the TVL track are acquiring are relevant to what the industry needs and matched with job openings.


Perennial problem

Thus the perennial problem of the mismatch between what the academic institutions produce and what the industry needs will be corrected and the ranks of the unemployed can be reduced.

As the Philippine Statistics Authority reported last week, two million Filipinos were either jobless or out of business last March, an increase of 3.9 percent from the 1.8 million the previous month, and part of the problem lies in companies finding it difficult to hire the people with the right skills for their specific needs.

Adding more meat to the circular is the provision in the 2024 national budget of some P438 million for the assessment and issuance of national certification to more than 400,000 Grade 12 learners under the Tesda Regulatory Program.


Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also noted that P50.012 million had been provided under the budget to expand Tesda’s pool of assessors. By the end of this year, the number should triple from 7,551 to around 19,000, for the smooth implementation of the circular providing for SHS graduates’ free assessment and certification. Gatchalian, who pushed for the funding for the assessment and issuance of national certifications, said this would increase the chances of SHS graduates in finding employment.

Immediate employability


Because of the closer coordination between the public and private sectors, the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) warmly welcomed the joint circular, emphasizing that it was a major step toward fulfilling the promise of the K-12 program of immediate employability, especially those on the TVL track.

“By design, the K-12 program aims to give students enough time to acquire skills to thrive in whatever path they choose to take. The disjunction in implementation and collaboration among government, industry, and academe has been our biggest hurdle, and we are glad to see things moving along,” said PBEd executive director Justine Raagas.

To recall, far too many SHS graduates on the TVL track have not been able to immediately get a job upon graduation—as what was envisioned with the K-12 program was put in place—because they lacked the certifications that their target employers required.

Or even if they did decide to spend on getting certified, their skills from SHS were only enough for them to pass levels 1 and 2 certifications when employers required at least a level 3, which means that they can exercise some judgment and discretion when going about their tasks.

Ever-changing job market

The private sector had long been clamoring for the overhaul of the SHS curriculum for those on the TVL track, with the Management Association of the Philippines underscoring in 2023 that the government vision for SHS graduates to be employment-ready based on the skills taught in the two added years “is far from being realized.”

“Instead of getting better jobs, they end up taking on elementary jobs that do not pay well,” said former MAP president Benedicta Du-Baladad.

This circular therefore is a step in the right direction and these efforts can be backstopped by greater participation from the private sector that can provide inputs on the type of skills that are needed in the ever-changing job market.

With this, private firms should be encouraged to do away with their bias toward hiring just college graduates and seriously consider hiring SHS graduates, especially if they will have the competencies that they will need anyway.

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Only by doing this will the K-12 program’s vision be accomplished and Filipinos will have more pathways to gainful employment, not just a college or university degree.


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