WITH a fund of $30 million (P1.6 billion), the United States has launched a five-year upskilling program for Filipino university students to boost the competitiveness and proficiency of the Philippine workforce.

In a statement, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said the US-Philippines Partnership for Skills, Innovation, and Lifelong Learning (UPSKILL) program would pursue more academic expertise exchange between American and Philippine universities.

UPSKILL will be implemented by the Research Triangle Institute, a consortium of US universities such as Arizona State University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in cooperation with the Philippine Business for Education and Edukasyon.ph.

“The challenges and opportunities that young people face today in the workplace make college training and education critical for their future success,” visiting USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for East Asia and the Pacific Sara Borodin said during the program’s launch at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Tuesday.

“With this partnership with USAID, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will provide unique opportunities for our colleges and universities to continuously innovate in response to the aspirations of the Philippines, and specifically that of our students,” CHED Executive Director Cinderella Filipina Benitez-Jaro said at the launch.

Earlier, PBEd said a weak basic education system would lead to a weak workforce and lower competitiveness with global counterparts.

The Philippines ranked 84th out of 134 economies in the 2023 Global Talent Competitiveness Index compiled by Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires in collaboration with the Descartes Institute for the Future and Human Capital Leadership Institute. — John Victor D. Ordoñez