Higher education: Matching skills with jobs

Bon Cabiles
Improving the quality of education so graduates are able to successfully contribute to the workforce is the ultimate goal of the Higher Education Productivity Project

CEBU CITY, Philippines – While hosting Christmas lunch last December, I was struck by how my nieces and nephews have grown. Four out of the 6 gathered at home are close to finishing high school, and well, taller than me. Soon after dessert, I asked them what their plans are for university.

This started a lively discussion especially among the parents who lamented the cost of higher education. More importantly, they wondered if a diploma could still guarantee a well-paying job.

In a country where putting children through higher education is mainly a parental obligation, these are major considerations among Filipino parents. There is increased pressure due to the premium placed on completing a degree.

They asked me pointblank, “So what do you think are good courses to take?” In this context, “good” translates to employment after graduation.

After 9 years working in the field of education, which includes a masters’ degree, I unfortunately (and to my embarrassment), did not have ready answers.

On the offhand, I could have said that I have been back home for only less than two months. When I thought about it more, I realized there is indeed a dearth of information about employment trends and their implications on educational choices.

Higher education productivity project

The unavailability of information was precisely one of the issues raised during a recent Higher Education Summit held in Cebu.

The summit was organized by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) in cooperation with USAID as part of the initial steps of the “Higher Education Productivity Project.”

EDUCATION. Phillippine Business for Education gathers industry and academe at an education summit in Cebu.

The project aims to address the mismatch of jobs and skills of graduates in the Philippines. According to PBEd president Chito B. Salazar, this mismatch is reflected in studies showing an increase in training costs for companies, the occurrence of remediation classes at work, and the low rate of hiring in the business process outsourcing industry (BPO).

PBEd’s initiative aims to build stronger collaborations between the academe and industry at the higher education level. The summit gathered heads/presidents of industries, universities and the Commission on Higher Education to discuss areas where industry can provide input to the academe.

The organizers understood the daunting task at hand, but they believe that being able to convene individuals of significant positions is already a milestone in itself.

ASEAN’s ‘mobility scheme’

Improving the quality of education so graduates are able to successfully contribute to the workforce is the ultimate goal of the project. However, leaders from various sectors understand that with advances in technology, the nature of work is also rapidly changing. By 2015, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will implement the proposed mobility scheme among 7 professions.

This means that professionals in the fields of medicine, dentistry, nursing, engineering, accountancy and surveying/geographical explorations will be able to practice freely in ASEAN member-countries. According to Cynthia Rose B. Bautista of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), in this competitive scenario, graduates who are not equipped properly will become vulnerable to exploitation.

With these developments and changes, it is even more important for parents and students to be informed and to understand not only future employment opportunities, but also implications on current educational choices. Likewise, the role of the media, including social media, in providing information to the public, was emphasized.

As the project moves forward, the organizers anticipate the involvement of more sectors and civil society groups. What is critical is building awareness — especially among students and parents — so they are able to better understand the context of the direction that higher education is taking.

In the Philippines, where parents generally invest heavily in their children’s education, having the right information means so much more. – Rappler.com

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