Fluency in 21st-century competencies
With all the tech wizardry around us, new entrants to the labor force, mostly millennials, are finding it really difficult to qualify for jobs in the 21st-century economy. It’s quite the paradox that employers can fill their vacancies despite the huge number of jobseekers. A lot of (older) people feel that information technology is second nature to millennials. That’s not necessarily so. Only about one in three Filipinos has access to the slowest—and most expensive—internet in Southeast Asia. The narrow bandwidth might be just fine for trolls who have nothing better to do, but it is neither adequate nor affordable where it matters most: in our schools, where our human capital is forged and our nation’s soul is tempered.
But we can make up for this inadequacy in some other ways.
Item 7 in the Duterte administration’s Economic Agenda calls for investments in human capital development, including health and education systems, “and match skills and training,” and Item 8 “promotes science, technology and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity.” So change may indeed be coming as far as our digital infrastructure and learning institutions are concerned, but we can only speculate at this point.
On the other hand, private business has been heavily investing in education and learning initiatives since the presidency of Cory Aquino. The League of Corporate Foundations reports that total annual corporate social responsibility efforts rarely fall below P1 billion, if at all, and the private-sector-driven education improvement programs for basic and higher education have only gotten more focused through the years. Just consider the work of the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Edukasyon.ph and Metrobank Foundation, to name a few.
More recently, major industry groups—like the Healthcare Information Management Association of the Philippines, Contact Center Association of the Philippines, Philippine Software Industry Association, Global In-House Center Council, Animation Council of the Philippines, and Game Developers Association of the Philippines—have started to actively engage and collaborate with the Department of Education, Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), and Commission on Higher Education to help bridge the jobs-versus-skills mismatch.
Led by their enabling organization, the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap), these industry groups accounted for $22 billion in revenue and hired more than one million full-time employees at very respectable pay scales in 2015.
In her keynote address at the recent “Getting Future Ready” HR summit organized by the
Ibpap, CHEd Chair Patricia B. Licuanan reiterated her agency’s commitment “to provide opportunities for educational advancement for all Filipinos, especially those who have less in life, and to shape current and future generations of Filipinos as engines of change, sources of innovation, forces of creativity, leaders of enterprise, and transformers of the future.”
She said the CHEd itself is “getting future ready” through such efforts as: the new General Education Curriculum, which seeks to ensure that there is no duplication of subjects between basic and higher education; academe-industry partnerships such as the Service Management Program with Ibpap, business analytics with IBM Philippines, and the Technopreneurship General Elective with the Philippine S&T Development Foundation; the PCARI (Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes) project, a five-year, capacity-building, technology-generating collaborative initiative designed to upgrade to global standards the research, development and innovation capabilities and competencies of Philippine higher education institutions; and the development of niche areas for research, development and extension in food production and
security, environment, disaster risk reduction and response, climate change and energy, and marine resources/systems: economy, biodiversity and conservation, smart analytics and engineering innovations, health systems, and education for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, agriculture/fisheries and mathematics).
Licuanan likewise described critical 21st-century competencies, such as a solid disciplinal foundation in order to be able to construct a solution or approach an issue from multiple perspectives, and adaptability and collaborative skills because flexibility and the ability to deal with change is a 21st-century hallmark.
Creativity, improvisation and regenerative capacity also come into play, she said, because “the human resources of the future are expected to integrate technical competence with the ability to understand creative processes,” as well as strategic communication, leadership and global citizenship.
According to the CHEd chair, the human resource of the future must be able to tell the story across multiple disciplines, teams, audiences and environments, and to take risks and persevere in exploring new ideas that can lead to an innovation breakthrough.
Finally, she said, 21st-century leaders and managers need a strong sense of global citizenship, which presumes the ability to understand and communicate across multiple cultures beginning with knowledge about one’s own culture. They need competence in information and communication technologies, with special appreciation of how these apply to cross-cultural settings, as well as the unique skills for creating and sustaining global teams. And they must master the art of facilitating, to ease the complex and sometimes painful processes of work in a global setting.
“Higher education has to help develop fluency in these 21st-century competencies,” Licuanan said. “With industry and HR practitioners, let us all work together to develop future-ready human resources.”
Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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