Growing and strengthening the talent pool

At the recent International Contact Center Conference and Expo (Iccce), Benedict C. Hernandez, president of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines, said the contact center industry now has just under 700,000 full-time employees and is poised to grow to as much as 900,000 by 2016.

“If you think about it, that number grew from practically nothing just 10 years ago,” he said.

Contact centers account for 66 percent of the total workforce in the information technology and business process management (IT BPM) industry, which now stands at one million full-time employees. Moreover, since 2010 the Philippines has yet to relinquish its premier position in the voice category. It is also doing very respectably in the other subsectors of the IT BPM industry, such as healthcare, animation, game development, and the multifaceted shared services. This is why it continues to be one of the top outsourcing destinations in the world today.

Amid this phenomenal growth, it is such a big challenge to find, hire and retain thousands upon thousands of globally competent Filipino talents because the demand far outstrips the supply, Hernandez pointed out.

According to Jomari Mercado, president of the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap), the IT BPM industry is on track to reach its 2016 growth target of 1.3 million full-time employees and $25 billion in revenue, but current recruitment hit rates (i.e., the number of applicants who immediately qualify for the vacancy versus the total number of applicants) still stand at 7-10 percent.

There is no lack of job applicants, especially among our youth, but almost 40 percent of employers all over the world say that lack of skills is the main reason for entry-level vacancies, as shown in the survey conducted for McKinsey Center for Government by Mona Mourshed, Diana Farrell and Dominic Burton.

The Department of Education estimates secondary enrollment (starting at first year high school) for school year 2013 at around 7 million. With a projected completion rate of 74.81 percent, that comes out to around five million students graduating from high school in 2016 under the old 10-year basic education curriculum. However, 2016 is also the year when the new K-to-12 senior high school curriculum goes live, so to speak. Many education stakeholders are anticipating a massive decline in postsecondary enrollment in 2016 for the simple reason that there would be no high school graduates then.

This development was a key discussion topic at the Iccce, Hernandez said.

Many parents still aspire for a college degree for their children, in the long-held belief that it would lead to decent, fulfilling and better-paying jobs. They are not wrong, but they are not entirely correct either. The transition to postsecondary education is actually the point where far too many of our youth—and their parents—make ill-advised career choices. A more logical progression would be for the young learner exiting high school to hone his/her employable skills first at a technical-vocational institution (TVI) and then strengthen these with the depth of knowledge that comes from higher education institutions (HEIs). If the learner so desires, he/she can even go back to the TVI later for more intensive, higher-level skills training to unify academic theory and real-world, hands-on practice.

Republic Act No. 10647, otherwise known as the Ladderized Education Act of 2014, seeks to provide our learners with this very option. The process is like going up a ladder, hence the name.

RA 10647 says that the state shall “institutionalize the ladderized interface between technical-vocational education and training (TVET) and higher education to open the pathways of opportunities, career and educational progression of students and workers, create a seamless and borderless system of education, empower students and workers to exercise options, or to choose when to enter and exit in the educational ladder, and provide job platforms at every exit as well as the opportunity to earn income.”

The law substantially strengthens Executive Order No. 358, issued in 2004, which “prioritizes the creation of six to ten million jobs and the expansion of youth opportunities” through a ladderized system allowing for easier transitions and progressions between TVET and higher education.

Director Amelia A. Biglete of the Commission on Higher Education’s Office of Program Standards and Development, Tesda Deputy Director General Irene G. Isaac, and Assistant Education Secretary Jesus Mateo have been conducting public consultations in earnest all week to hammer out the fine points of the all-important implementing rules and regulations for RA 10647. They hope to get these ready for signing by CHEd Chair Patricia Licuanan, Tesda Director General Joel Emmanuel J. Villanueva, and Education Secretary Armin Luistro by Feb. 10.

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The Eggie Apostol Foundation grieves along with the nation over the unwarranted deaths of our young policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Our hearts break as we reflect on the loss felt by the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives and children of these brave, honor-bound young men. May the Good Lord bless and keep them.

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