By Camille A. Aguinaldo
WITH 600,000 senior high school graduates expected to enter the workforce this year, business groups on Friday assured K-to-12 graduates that they would open employment positions for them amid concerns over the latter’s job readiness earlier raised by several employers.
“We in the private sector therefore reaffirm our strong support for the K-to-12 reform by taking affirmative action and opening employment positions for K-to-12 graduates and rethinking our hiring guidelines to put a premium on competencies instead of credentials,” Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) chairman Ramon Del Rosario, Jr. said in a press briefing, citing the joint statement of business groups.
The groups expressing their commitment included the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. (PCCI), Makati Business Club (MBC), IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), and the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFCCP).
Several employers had expressed doubts that K-to-12 graduates might not be ready for the job market while the Department of Education (DepEd) believed the program has equipped students the right skills that industries need due to the work immersion program included in the curriculum.
However, a survey conducted by PBEd showed that only one in five companies was ready to hire K-to-12 graduates while three in five were open to hire them. Meanwhile, a recent Jobstreet.com’s survey indicated that only 24% of companies said they were willing to hire graduates from the program.
At the press briefing, Mr. Del Rosario urged companies to open their minds that K-to-12 graduates have enough competencies for certain jobs that do not need a college degree.
“Maybe it’s time for us as companies to do away with this age-old requirement that’s in our manuals and policies which says you have to be a college graduate no matter what job it is you’re applying for,” he said.
Asked about the “competencies” that companies expect from K-to-12 graduates, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) George T. Barcelon said the basic requirement included both Filipino and English comprehension as well as communication skills.
For her part, People Management Association of the Philippines’ (PMAP) member Jocelyn R. Pick said K-to-12 graduates needed to hone their critical skills and communication skills.
PBEd Executive Director Lovelaine Basillote noted that employers frequently cite the lack of confidence and maturity of graduates to handle the job as factors to their unwillingness to hire high school graduates.
Mr. Barcelon added that businesses should encourage foreign investors to consider investing in training Filipino workers.
“Many of them have come to the Philippines and find that there’s a lack of skills set needed. So it’s high time to look into this (training) as an investment. And I’m sure the government will be able to reciprocate by giving incentives,” he said.
However, he admitted that there are costs on the part of companies in providing facilities and supervisors for training fresh graduates.
“So we would like to be selective and at the same time, invest in those people that we take in as employees,” he said.
Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines Inc. (ANZCham) member Roger Bartholomew echoed Mr. Barcelon’s statements, saying that companies should be prepared to provide proper training programs to senior high school graduates as have been done by Australian companies.
“Most Australian companies that take students straight from high school expect to conduct either in-company or outsource training. They don’t expect students to necessarily be ready to all of their job description,” he said.
American Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Inc. (AmCham) senior adviser John D. Forbes pointed out that senior high school graduates could look into entry-level positions in the manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture sectors since a college education is usually not needed in these industries.
“Those are all large sectors that have tremendous potential in this country,” he said.
Ms. Pick also noted that the Information-Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) could also step in and provide jobs to recent graduates in Mindanao, citing the peace and order situation in the region.
“I strongly believe that is one way by which we could help in giving employment to these youth who would otherwise be tempted to go into the dark side, so to speak,” she said.