THE government will focus on job creation in its economic recovery efforts and plans to make a major push in upskilling the workforce, particularly those from vulnerable communities, Cabinet officials said.

At Wednesday’s pre-State of the Nation Address forum, members of the Cabinet’s Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster said the need was urgent to address labor and workforce skill level issues because of the displacement caused by the pandemic.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the government’s infrastructure program will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to his conversations with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Dito magkakaroon ng projects na mai-implement (Build, Build, Build is where many of the implementable projects are), and this will revive the construction and we hope this will generate not less than 400,000 job opportunities,” he said. He added that the private sector has committed to maximizing labor-intensive work for now and holding off on any moves to automate.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director-General Isidro S. Lapeña said the agency is expanding its skills training offerings for vulnerable communities like indigenous people, former communist rebels, and the poor.

“The TESDA training centers… are now going to the communities,” he said. He added training is being provided in agriculture and marketing to help communities sell their products.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said one of the priorities for the 2021 budget is to support training in skills relevant to the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will feature widespread digitization and automation, without which the economy cannot move forward.

“One of the priorities under the 2021 proposed national budget is really the upskilling of capabilities for the digital economy,” he said at the briefing. “The only way for us to boost our economy is to go digital,” he added. — Gillian M. Cortez