The future of work, are we ready for it?

What does it take for one to land a good job and be set for life? Many would say that the golden ticket to meaningful employment and a successful career is a college diploma. Most Filipino families put premium on higher education, as evidenced by an average of 3.5 million college entrants in the last three years, even after the implementation of the K to 12 program.

However, that does not seem to be the case anymore. In the context of a fast-changing world of work, a World Economic Forum report earlier this year proclaimed skills as the new currency of the labor market. This global shift is being led by giants. Companies like Apple, Facebook, and Netflix no longer require 4-year degrees for many positions and instead require skills that are developed best through hands-on experience.

In the Philippines, recent policies also point to the same direction. As the K to 12 program goes into full swing, two among its four exits lead to non-college pathways. First, senior high school (SHS) graduates may take further technical-vocational training. It is good to see this recognition for technical training translated to investments as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority continues to receive more support and reach more trainees than it has in the recent years.

Secondly, K to 12 graduates are joining the workforce. Around 10% of the 1.2 million SHS graduates from 2018 opted not to purse higher education; many of them having opted to seek employment instead. While there have been initial doubts on their ability to deliver in the workplace, we have seen that K to 12 graduates are in fact, ready for work.

At Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), we have hosted four batches of Grade 12 students for work immersion to date, and feedback from their direct supervisors has been great.

This is the same sentiment we have received from our private sector partners today as we held the culminating activity for First Future. When PBEd, with the support of Citi Foundation, launched this project in 2018 we sought to rally companies to open their doors to K to 12 graduates, and the support has been outstanding. As of today, the project has engaged 116 companies to open over 19,000 entry-level jobs for SHS graduates. Further, there has been an improvement on the companies’ readiness to accept these graduates. In the second iteration of a survey we have conducted, three among five companies have now adjusted their hiring practices to accommodate non-college graduates. In my capacity as PBEd’s program director for workforce development, many more of our partner companies intend to follow suit.

There is a long way to go, but here is where we start. We are in the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, and we need to prepare our future workforce. A piece of paper is no longer enough, we must now bank on skills and therefore recognize it as a form of qualification for jobs through competency-based hiring.

Finally, while these are all welcome efforts, we need a framework to institutionalize the recognition of skills and align levels of qualifications across basic, technical-vocational, and higher education. This is exactly what the recently signed Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) aims to promote and support, as it will ultimately transform the way we acknowledge and validate skills acquired through different ways of learning, and create on-and-off ramps for education, training, and employment.

Then, we wouldn’t need an outdated golden ticket, but an inclusive system with multiple pathways towards economic prosperity for all Filipinos.

Justine Raagas is the Program Director for Workforce Development of Philippine Business for Education. For questions or comments, email

Originally published on Business World 21 October 2019 issue.

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