Bridging competency gaps | Inquirer Opinion

Bridging competency gaps

/ 01:17 AM October 11, 2014

According to a 2011 World Bank study, the Philippine labor market is in a “serious bottleneck” situation that hampers innovation and productivity among Philippine companies. The same study points out that the quality of education and training is a key reason why gainful employment is proving to be very elusive for so many young people because of “jobs-versus-skills mismatch.”

And this is true not just in the Philippines. All over the world, employers are at their wits’ end trying to address critical skills shortages that detract from their overall efficiency and competitiveness. It must be very frustrating for company recruiters to turn away scores of young men and women simply because many of the competencies they acquired in school have become irrelevant or outdated by the time they seek employment. It must be equally heartbreaking, too, for education providers, at all levels (i.e., basic education, technical-vocational, higher education and even alternative learning systems), to see the wards they trained so assiduously for years fail to land the kind of jobs they studied for.

The IT & Business Process Management industry (IT-BPM) is a classic example. The Department of Labor and Employment’s Bureau of Local Employment lists IT-BPM as a “key employment generator.” Indeed, IT-BPM companies have already added one million new hires into its workforce this year, notes Jose Mari P. Mercado, president of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap).

Mercado says the industry expects the demand to grow to around 1.3 million workers by 2016 with an estimated gross revenue of about $25 billion.


And yet the current trend is, only 7-10 out of 100 applicants get hired immediately, points out Penny Bongato, Ibpap’s executive director for talent development. The rest have to level up their skills to the exacting standards of 21st-century workplaces. Bongato likewise notes that the industry’s demand for talent are outstripping the supply of qualified applicants by ever-growing margins.

There are, however, pockets of excellence with regard to industry-academe partnerships. As the “project technical experts” for the IT-BPM Growth Area Project of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), Ibpap has been engaging 17 state universities and colleges (SUCs) for the Service Management Program (SMP) with English language proficiency modules. This CHEd-Ibpap partnership aims to improve the quality of the graduate pool seeking entry into the IT-BPM industry. As of this writing, 545 teachers from the business administration and IT faculties of 14 SUCs have been trained to teach SMP electives (i.e., business communication, service culture, systems thinking and BPO fundamentals), while over 4,500 students have already enrolled in SMP classes.

This coming Nov. 3-13, Ibpap will be conducting faculty training and SMP certification for all interested higher education institutions (both public and private) that would like to offer the SMP specialization track. The venue will be Arellano University’s Jose Abad Santos campus, Taft Avenue, Pasay City. (Interested parties may

e-mail me at [email protected]).


Fr. Jett Villarin, Ateneo de Manila University president, however, observes that while industry-academe engagements are all laudable, efforts have so far been piecemeal and at times “tragically myopic.” Villarin says that what we need to make things work is a “bridge” strong enough to carry on a continuing conversation between industry and academe. Phinma Corp.’s president, Ramon del Rosario, says that the time has come to elevate such industry-academe encounters into institutional level.

Del Rosario and Father Villarin lead the newly formed collegial body—National Industry Academe Council (NIAC)—that seeks to do just that. Facilitated by the Philippine Business for Education, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), NIAC wants to “get as many of the right people into the right careers,” says Dr. Chito Salazar, president of Phinma Education Network.


NIAC also aims to increase industry involvement in the standards and quality assurance processes through various initiatives, including a more focused internship/OJT program; to make market information accessible to students and parents alike, so they can arrive at informed decisions in choosing careers and schools; and to develop systems and improve governance by “deepening integration among system stakeholders (by) working and coordinating with involved government agencies.”

NIAC’s key reform thrust involves full support of the K-to-12 system. “The new K-to-12 curriculum helps our students acquire knowledge, learn skills and form values that will be beneficial to them, whether they choose to go to college, (or go to) work or even start their own businesses after high school,” says Dr. Jose Paulo Campos, president of the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities.

The NIAC’s covice chairs are Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chair of Ayala Corp., and Dr. Ricardo Rotoras, president of Mindanao University of Science and Technology and of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (Pasuc).

The founding members from industry are Arthur Tan (Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc.), Edgar Chua (Shell Philippines), Edgar Lacson (Employers Confederation of the Philippines), Nestor Tan (Banco de Oro), Xavier Aboitiz (Aboitiz Equity Ventures), Luis Pineda, (IBM Philippines), and Ester Garcia (Management Association of the Philippines), while Fred Pascual (University of the Philippines), Br. Dennis Magbanua (De La Salle University), Jojo Dagohoy (University of Santo Tomas), Tommy Lopez (Pasuc/University of Makati), Rey Vea (Mapua), and Vince Fabella (Jose Rizal University) are from academe.

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Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at Ibpap.

TAGS: Butch Hernandez, Commentary, employment, IBPAP, IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines, jobs, labor, opinion

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