by Ramon R. del Rosario Jr.
Education has historically been the domain of academicians. But that now needs to change, given the fast-changing world of work, advances in technology and economic growth that has not resulted in opportunities for all.
This was the consensus from the recently held 2019 Higher Education Summit organized by Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), an organization I serve as chair.
That Summit gathered over 80 leaders from government, industry and academia. Three main conclusions emerged: a need for more active partnerships, timely and usable labor market data, and relevant experiential learning. A new framework or paradigm in connecting education to employment is needed, for the country to adapt to a changing and uncertain future world of work.
What was clear among the participants was partnerships need to be context-specific, demand-driven and concrete for all parties involved. Importantly, they need the active participation of nontraditional players in education, i.e., the business community, and flexibility in curriculum and program development—something that industry leaders and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chair Prospero de Vera are championing.
There are existing models we can learn from. In PBEd, we call them workforce development models—examples of how different sectors of society can work together to equip students with skills they need to secure jobs and eventually contribute to their communities. In Cagayan de Oro City, for example, the Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant Association (Cohara) established a strong partnership with educational institutions that rationalized the fielding of interns based on available positions in Cohara-member companies, and developed an industry certification that graduates could use on top of their school diplomas to land jobs.
In the Bohol “Turo-turismo” model, the provincial government helped bring together the hotels in Panglao for a senior high school (SHS) linkage program that provides an experiential work immersion opportunity for SHS students. The government put up a shared training facility that offers an industry-driven curriculum developed by schools, and is equipped with up-to-date equipment and furniture donated by partner hotels and resorts.
The Iloilo City Government Industry Academe Council, together with social enterprise Dream Believe Connect, is conducting work exposure camps in different industries for high school students, and currently maintains an online platform that matches job seekers with companies in need of skilled workers.
Another conclusion from the summit was that partnerships require good, relevant and usable data on skills supply and demand in order to improve existing initiatives and inform future ones. Workforce development partnerships require a mapping of skills demand and supply that is nuanced to the job function and sector, so that short-term training programs could be developed and curricula for long-term training could be adapted. These partnerships also require a mapping of industry-academe partnerships that already exist, to leverage extant support and resources for greater impact.
Finally, the need for experiential learning was identified as a priority. Thankfully, we don’t need to start from scratch. While internships and on-the-job trainings are the most common, other models include the Punlaan School in San Juan’s competency-based Dual Training Scholarship program and Cebu Technological University’s research and innovation thrust toward Industry 4.0 and technopreneurship. PBEd, for its part, is complementing YouthWorks PH with the United States Agency for International Development—a five-year, private sector-led project that provides work-based training for youth not in education, employment or training.
The country’s job mismatch problem lies not in the lack of these workforce development models, but in sustaining them, replicating what works and scaling them to meet national development needs. Local governments and state agencies have to work together in linking industry and academe, facilitating linkages and providing a conducive policy environment that sustain such partnerships.
Schools have to get out of their silos and be more sensitive to the pulse of industry, especially in developing responsive curricula that address the needs of the community. Finally, as chair of PBEd, I reach out to my colleagues in the business sector to take on a more proactive role in investing in our people, working with the government and the academe to help our young men and women lead productive lives. No one sector can do it alone, and definitely not by doing business as usual.
Ramon R. del Rosario Jr. (rrdelrosario@ gmail.com) is the chair of Philippine Business for Education. Originally published on Inquirer.net column, Business Matters. Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club.