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    Filipinos and the Changing Nature of Work

    26 October 2017

    Message at the 6th Philippine Professional Summit

    Atty. Teofilo Pilando Jr., Chairman of the Philippine Regulation Commission, who is the only attorney here in this room aside from me; Mr. Gerard Sanvictores, PAPRB President; Mr. Jose Cueto, PRC Commissioner; Ms. Yolanda Reyes, PRC Commissioner; PAPRB Executive Vice President Robert Sac; PAPRB First Vice President Carrie Dumlao; PAPRB members; PRC staff; delegates of the 6th Philippine Professional Summit; mga minamahal kong kababayan: Magandang magandang umaga sainyong lahat!

    It is a privilege to be surrounded by such an esteemed group today, whose daily decisions determine how government, organizations, and corporations behave. More than anything else, it is those daily acts of excellence that truly move the heavy wheels of the economy forward. This is why our nation must do better at acknowledging the services, sacrifices, innovations, honesty, and accountability of professionals across the country. So sa inyo pong lahat: Mabuhay po kayo!

    Since 1948, when your mother organization, the Philippine Association of Board Examiners’ Inc. was organized, the number of professionals in the country has grown by leaps and bounds. Together, we have faced social, cultural, political, security, and economic crises. We have responded to calamities, adapted to new technologies, dealt with new global realities, learned to either love or hate the rise of social media, and continued to scale up our skills and knowledge because of the demands of our professions. Through all of these, you sustained your efforts to push for professional excellence, quality service, and social responsibility, and for these we are truly very grateful.

    These values are increasingly becoming crucial, at a time when global competition for labor and capital is intensifying in ways we have never seen before. Borders have disappeared and human mobility has increased. The Internet has democratized hiring and jets have made it possible to literally go around the world in much, much less than 80 days. A 2015 study of the ADB and the International Labor Organization projected that ASEAN integration will generate about 14 million jobs from 2010 to 2025—and Filipinos have started to compete for these jobs with every other nationality in the region.

    More importantly, artificial intelligence and machines are causing a tremendous transformation in the nature of work, here and around the world. Our professionals are not just competing with those from other countries, they are now starting to compete with machines that can do what we do faster and better.

    Did you know that computer programs can now write news articles and monitor patients’ vital signs? Another ILO study, this time released in 2016 entitled ASEAN in Transformation: How Technology Is Changing Jobs and Enterprises, shows that 49% of jobs in the country are at risk of automation, particularly those of BPO workers and call centers at a raging 89% or one million jobs.

    These are the battles facing all of us today, making it necessary to redefine how we see our professions, our skills, and our future. We need a new strategy; we need a new roadmap.

    We are fortunate that the administration’s economic team has laid out specific and long-term policies for taking advantage of the global momentum, while at the same time, ensuring sustained economic growth by maximizing the potential of our young workforce.

    In doing these, we must think about improving skill sets and inspiring excellence among those who are at the lower rungs of the ladder, so that Filipinos will be known for higher-order thinking skills that this new AI-assisted world will require. This will not just make the government, the private sector, and all other organizations here in the country more efficient and effective. It will also build inclusivity and allow those who may be left behind by progress to have a better chance of joining it.

    At the Office of the Vice President, jobs and livelihood are now our top concern. These are two issues that have surfaced as our people’s greatest needs, as we went around the poorest and farthest barangays in our country over the past year. Our consultations with business groups like the Makati Business Club, the Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industries, development partners, and government agencies have also indicated that addressing the need for sustainable and gainful employment and business opportunities will also create inclusive and competitive economic growth. We need to hit development and inclusivity at the same time, with the kind of focus that creates results.

    For the past weeks, we conducted a series of consultations with various sectors on ways to bridge the gaps on livelihood and employment. There were many things that we discovered from those conversations. First, we learned that there are many jobs waiting for our people. For example, the IT-BPO industry currently hires 160,000 locals in Cebu and has a potential to hire 40,000 more in the next 2-3 years. In the construction sector, there is, in fact, a shortage of engineers, surveyors, and other workers, and companies have to hire from other provinces to complete their projects. The same is true in the services industry.

    Second, there is a disconnect between industry requirements and training programs. Employers in several industries have reported difficulties in finding workers with the required competencies and skills. Just recently, a study by India-based employment solutions firm, Aspiring Minds, showed that only one out of three Filipino college graduates is employable, which means about 65 percent of graduates in the country do not have the right skills and training to qualify for the jobs they are applying for. In the construction industry, for instance, skilled labor refers to work that requires specialized training or a learned skill like heavy machine operation or electrical installation. A worker reaches that level of expertise only after undergoing proper education or training, and in some cases, gaining certification from our accreditation bodies.

    To make matters worse, there is a shortage of qualified instructors that will train our people to be good professionals in their respective fields. In Bulacan, the participants from the consultations said the academe lacked data on employment requirements that are critical in determining programs and curricula.

    One of the ways we can bridge these gaps is to strengthen trainings and skills development programs, and make them at par with global standards. Skills mismatch can be addressed by producing graduates that are equipped with competencies that are in line with the demands of the international labor market. With roughly 40 percent of senior high school students involved in technical skills, we really have to make sure that they are prepared for work. Not only do we need to level up the quality of our trainings, but we also need to make our trainings and seminars more accessible to our people.

    I am glad that the Philippine Regulatory Commission is increasing the number of Continuing Professional Development program providers to accommodate the large number of professionals who will need their services. But I hope that you also find ways to make professional qualifications standardized among educational institutions, employers and other countries so we can prepare our workforce for the demands of the future.

    Our people are so talented; often, all they need is an opportunity and the ability to retool and to relearn. But all these cannot be solved by government alone. That is why we need an effective convergence strategy; in this way, we are able to focus on the same metrics and results.

    Just the other Tuesday, we launched Angat Kabuhayan, the Office of the Vice President’s contribution to this administration’s initiative in harnessing the potential of our people. As you might know, our office is not an implementing agency and we only have a very limited mandate. To make the most of our role, we are positioning ourselves as a convergence platform for various sectors – the government, the private sector, and civil society – to connect our young workforce to fast-growing industries. These include agribusiness, construction, IT-BPO, manufacturing, services and tourism.

    Allow me to share with you some of the things that we have started rolling out. Just this year, we have partnered with Astoria Culinary and Hospitality Institute (ACHI) in granting 100% scholarship to underprivileged studentsin a 208-hour internship program with Astoria. The internship program aims to provide hands-on training to improve competencies of students who are looking to join the hospitality management industry. Scholars under the internship program will undergo intensive training and assessment; and if they perform well, Astoria can hire them after graduation.

    In Palawan, scholars who have undergone the first phase of skills training with Astoria Hotel have already graduated. This program was done in cooperation with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Asian Development Bank, and the local government of Puerto Princesa. What is beautiful about this partnership is that 41 of those who graduated were from the IP community. These young people are symbols of hope that anything is truly possible if we all work together.

    We are very fortunate that Astoria has agreed to partner with us under our Angat Kabuhayan initiative. Through their generosity, students from Rizal and Marikina also have the opportunity to spend their on-the-job trainings under the hotel’s hospitality management program for free. In fact, the first batch of scholars from the University of Rizal Systems have already graduated last August. Just last week, the Manila Hotel has expressed their interest to partner with us in a similar endeavor.

    These are golden opportunities, as skills and more learning are open doorways to the professional world.

    With better linkages among all sectors and with a more effective way of collaboration, we can drive our country towards inclusive growth by harnessing the potential of every Filipino. And we need to actively set the stage today.

    As professionals, the things that you do directly impact the future of our country. Let us shun mediocrity and embrace excellence. We must never look at our positions as sources of entitlement, perks, or privilege. Every day must be a chance to innovate. Our professional titles must carry the commitment to serve, not to be served. And when we meet our counterparts—robots and programs with artificial intelligence—let us prove our superiority by exhibiting empathy, teamwork, ethics, and an ability to build visions of prosperity for our people. These are the things that no computer can copy.

    Thank you very much for having me today. Congratulations to PRC and PAPRB! Maraming salamat at mabuhay po kayong lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Oct 26, 2017