By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A youth activist group on Wednesday expressed concern on the transferring of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) saying the move will only make the youth “more vulnerable to exploitative cheap” labor schemes.
The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), which identifies itself as a youth organization aiming to “educate and mobilize the youth in widening its democratic rights and empower them to counter all forms of oppression and capitalist exploitation,” questioned the transfer of TESDA from the Office of the President to the DTI under Executive Order 67 (EO) issued last October 31.
Issuing a statement, SPARK said that the move “will only make the youth more vulnerable to exploitative cheap if not totally free, labor schemes by private companies that circumvent labor laws” under the tutelage of the DTI.
SPARK noted that the said EO states that the transfer aims “to ensure responsiveness and efficiency and efficiency in the delivery of essential public services and the attainment of the Administration’s ten point socio economic agenda and the development goals as articulated in the Philippine Development Plan.” One of its development goals is to “accelerate development of human capital which explicitly mentions the strengthening and expansion of internship, apprenticeship, and dual training programs as its deliberate strategy.”
“Under the guise of enhancing employability and addressing the abused alibi of corporations of jobs mismatch, the Duterte administration aims to expand the ranks of the youth that are not in schools but are enslaved in factories,” said SPARK Spokesperson Shara Mae Landicho. “If this is not proof of the deceptiveness of this administration’s much vaunted free tertiary education program then we longer know what is,” she added.
SPARK fears that under DTI, the TESDA’S mandate to “manage and supervise technical education and skills development” will be “altered into a serving as a recruitment and training agency that will supply companies with cheap labor.”
SPARK believes that TESDA – under the DTI – will pave the way for “malpractice of cheap if not free labor will be institutionalized and further bolstered to increase their margins of profits.”
Landicho also revealed that last September, TESDA and Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) – a non-profit organization founded by the country’s top CEOs – launched YouthWorks PH which is a workforce development project, to provide skills training to youth not in education, employment or training (NEET).
“The TESDA website states pitches NEET as a work-based training in the fields of construction, hospitality and tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, energy, and banking and finance plans,” Landicho said. “They allege that the curriculum they are developing for NEET will require eighty percent of the trainings to be on the job, similar to apprenticeships and only twenty percent on classroom instruction settings allowing host companies to profit out of their trainees,” she added.
Landicho alleged that this “labor flexibilization schemes and legalized and systemic violation of our rights as students and as young members of the workforce has to end.” She added that the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the National Youth Commission (NYC) and the Department of Labor Employment (DOLE) have not taken “concrete steps to curb these atrocities against us.”
The group noted that it is “common practice for companies to partner with academic and technical vocational training institutions to administer internship programs for undergraduates in exchange for a certificate of compliance.” In worse cases, she added that the “students end up paying the company instead of being paid for their labor.”
“It is condemnable enough that the government has year-in, year out abandoned the education sector with severe budget cuts, now they are hustling us into factories and luring us to work abroad under its labor export policy,” Landicho said.
SPARK has been campaigning for the inclusion of a special subject on labor rights in the curriculum for senior high school (SHS) students and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions. “This subject should cover topics such as salaries and wages, employment policies, state-sanctioned benefits, grievances procedures and other political rights in the workplace,” Landicho ended.