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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Addressing the Great Mismatch

Happy Labor Day!
I heard in one radio news a couple of days ago that the government is having a problem meeting the skills requirements of companies. They also say that there is a job surplus in the Philippines. This means that there are more work available than the available manpower can supply. For a citizen who is born and raised in this country, I know for a fact that despite this news, there is a wide gap between the amount of jobs needed by the people and what is available. The reason, a great mismatch between what the companies need and what the jobless have in terms of skills.

I am not an expert on this subject matter and I didn’t do a thorough research to claim factual data, but I am confident about the truth of what I am saying. It is true, a lot of people are jobless because they lack the necessary knowledge or skills. Many of the positions that many companies want to fill include, call center jobs, IT related work, and other positions that require higher level of knowledge and skills than many of the job hunters cannot offer. Many jobless individuals in this country do not have the needed education, but the other more serious problem is that many college graduates are failing to secure decent jobs because despite their education, they can’t meet the requirements of the companies. Many college graduates compete for jobs that are supposed to be for college and high school dropouts. Some companies that realize this increase the educational requirements for entry to their companies and why not? If they can hire graduates, why settle for dropouts?

The application success rate in call centers is about 3% (last I heard). In IT related work like software development, I would bet that if all IT graduates apply, the success rate will be even lower. The thing is, many graduates won’t even apply because they know they don’t have the skills. Some are lucky enough to get a trainee appointment where they are given training on technologies that are not offered in the colleges where they studied. Lately there is an upsurge of need for software quality engineers. IT companies poach from each other because there is not enough number of graduates who have this skill and not all companies can provide the expensive training. I know only a handful of schools that offer a foundation program on this skill. Among them De La Salle, Asia Pacific College and Far Eastern University. I’m not so sure about the others. Technology companies are feeling the crunch of lack of skills and there is no immediate relief in sight. What can be done to address this concern before it gets too serious? China is building their English Language Capabilities. Other neighboring countries do the same. This is evidenced by the exodus of our English Language teachers. If we do not do anything, it will be just a matter of time until Investors realize that there are better places to setup shop in. Two or three years ago I hired two fresh graduates who finished cum laude in two reputable schools. Did I hire them because of they know more than other graduates? No, They know close to nothing about HR work which is one of the most likely jobs for Psychology graduates. I hired them for their attitude.

How do we solve this? What can we do to improve the match between what the companies need and the talents available? Let us exchange opinion on this. Here are mine:

I have not been active in PMAP and other related organizations for some years now so I don’t know if this is being done. If it is, let me extend my congratulations. You are absolutely on the right track in my book. I hope it pays off soon (as it is not yet fully evident now). Industry Federations and professional organizations should work with the academe (all of them and not just the so called “reputable” schools) on developing curricula that will deliver the kinds of skills the industries are looking for. This should be done as regularly as there are regular advances in technologies and various disciplines.

Something should be done to stop some schools from being diploma mills. They should be made responsible for the quality of their graduates. Education is a serious business. We are talking about people’s lives here. If factories work hard to improve the quality of their outputs to give their customers’ money’s worth, Schools should do the same, although I understand that this is not as simple, they should exert all necessary efforts just the same and with even more intensity. When trainers like me conduct training, we evaluate the effectiveness of our programs to see if we are able to meet learners’ expectations, and redesign our programs accordingly. I believe that the academe should do the same in a much bigger way. They should track their graduates to find out if they are able to qualify for the jobs they are applying for, provided that it is the right job for them. If not, find out what the problems are and do something. If the schools can do something to close the gap between the information given to students and the kind of knowledge the companies need, I’ll bet that we will have a better chance as a nation.

If the college graduates become more qualified to do the jobs that companies need, there will be less of them to compete in the jobs that should be given to the “ less educated”. The ones with no college degree to speak of is a separate case that should be addressed both by government and industry federations with as much intensity. I believe that raising the qualifications for jobs that do not really require as much just because there are available supply of graduates put the less educated in a very disadvantaged position. We should Identify these types of jobs and have the local and national government together with industry federations work together on how to make the less educated people fit the job requirements through training.

Something should be done and it can be done. With the right network between industry association, professional organizations, the government and the academe. I pray that something similar to what I am talking about here is underway. If not, I hope somebody with enough influence is reading this and do something with urgency. This is a serious concern that affects our competitiveness as a country.

I know that there is more to be said about this topic that I am unable to cover. If you have thoughts you wish to share with me and my readers, please do.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:39 PM

    About a year ago, a group of HR managers and executives from the biggest companies in the Philippines visited a chancellor of one of the premier universities in the country. They made some proposal about modifying the curriculum of engineering courses in that university so that it will suit the need of their companies. Right there and then the very bright chancellor junked the proposal down. :)

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