Manufacturing boom hinges on education | Inquirer Opinion
Business Matters

Manufacturing boom hinges on education

The Philippines stands at a crossroads. Unemployment is down, manufacturing is booming, and echoes of a bygone era—when the country was a manufacturing powerhouse—are starting to resonate again. This resurgence, however, hinges on one crucial factor: our workforce.

The numbers make us hopeful. The Philippine Statistics Authority reported a significant drop in unemployment at 3.9 percent last March, with millions finding their place in the workforce. Manufacturing, according to the S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index Survey, is leading the charge, contributing a hefty 19 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. These numbers are promising, a sign that the Philippines is well on its way to reclaiming its position as a regional manufacturing giant.

But past glory is not a guarantee of future success. To truly solidify our economic standing, we must invest in our most valuable asset: our people. Are we adequately preparing our workforce for the demands of this new industrial era? How can we forge a brighter future without investing in the present?

A recent trip to Boston, Massachusetts, offered a glimpse of how education can empower a nation’s industrial ambitions. Institutions like the Innovent Technologies, which focuses on dynamic engineering and research and development; the Essex Tech community college, comprised of 17 member communities, with advanced manufacturing in its curriculum, and of course, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are pioneering programs that bridge the gap between theory and practice, thus creating a “mind-and-hand” approach to education. These programs aim to train technicians to become technologists, fostering a culture of innovation right on the shop floor.

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Inspired by such models, we want to bring that future back home. Fortunately, the Philippines is taking similar strides. The Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Alliance, through collaborations with the government, industry, and academe, is actively upskilling and reskilling workers to meet the challenges of advanced manufacturing. This industry-led approach has already yielded impressive results, exceeding Year 2 training targets by 141 percent and training 3,861 individuals to date in 16 manufacturing courses focusing on enabling and functional skills.

Together with the Department of Science and Technology-Metals Industry Research and Development Center (DOST-MIRDC), and Teradyne, we will establish two new advanced manufacturing institutes in Manila and Cebu, following our two AMIs in Laguna and Pampanga. We have rolled out the strategic human resources management program for the advanced manufacturing industry with the Ateneo Center for Organization Research and Development and soon, the executive management program for the advanced manufacturing industry with the De La Salle University-School of Lifelong Learning. We are working directly with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority on the training regulations to align qualifications and competencies to be at par with industry standards.

This is an educational evolution, sparking a new chapter in the Filipino story. Now, we channel that same spirit into economic transformation. By investing in education, we equip our workforce to not just survive, but thrive on the global stage. The message is clear: Education is not a luxury but the cornerstone of economic prosperity. By fostering a skilled and adaptable workforce, we can transform the Philippines into a true manufacturing powerhouse. We must learn from successful models abroad and continue investing in education.

This movement exemplifies the spirit of “bayanihan” or collective action. The future is now, and the future is in advanced manufacturing. It’s not about machines replacing humans; it’s about the Filipino workforce leading the charge with a future-proof skills set.

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Dr. Danilo C. Lachica is president of Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc., the association representing the electronics industry. He also heads the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Alliance. He has 40 years of senior management experience in semiconductors, electronics, and consumer goods manufacturing, 16 of which were in front-end semiconductor wafer manufacturing in Silicon Valley. He is former senior vice president of First Philippine Holdings Corp. under the Lopez Group and concurrent president of the group’s electronics/solar manufacturing companies. He is currently a member of the advisory councils of DOST’s SEI, ITDI, and AMCen. For DTI, Dr. Lachica sits in the Export Development Council ExCom and cochairs the EMB NCTPPS and the Electronics Technical Working Group.

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Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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