Albay Representative Joey Sarte Salceda on Saturday, July 3 pushed for an expanded role for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in job creation and recovery, in response to the creation of the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) Task Force, under Executive Order 140 signed by President Duterte.
In the NERS eight-point plan, TESDA’s primary role will be to train, retool, and upskill 407,804 workers, Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said.
Salceda, however, said that “to change the game on industrial expansion, and to really create a critical mass of workers ready for and attractive to new investments, we must be very ambitious with our upskilling goals.’’
‘’The employed labor force is around 43.3 million. My estimate is we need to train and upskill around a third of these workers, and all our unemployed workers, to make a meaningful difference,” he added.
“That’s already 18.5 million. We also need to have ready internships and training programs for the other 0.8 million or so graduates of college every year. Over the next two years, we really need to train at least 20 million workers to make a real splash,” Salceda stressed.
Salceda said this ambitious strategy has three major components:
First, technical vocational education in formal schooling, both high school and college;
Second, we need a more diverse set of skill offerings from TESDA, including higher-order skills such as data analytics, 3D-modelling, and the rest.
Third, we need to map out the skills that industries of the future need, the skills that we already have, and the skills that we still lack. This is the Singapore strategy of job protection, to keep their workers ready for any change in industries,” Salceda explained.
“And that is very difficult to do unless TESDA is a department. So, we need these three components, and we need TESDA to be full-scale national government department, and not just attached to DTI,” Salceda added. Salceda is principal author of House Bill No. 4417, which seeks to make TESDA a full cabinet department.
“We can’t keep feeding dead horses. In many ways, COVID-19 has accelerated the obsolescence of industries that were already on their way out anyway. If we want to create resilient, quality jobs, we need to create strong new industries that solve new problems and create new value,” he said.
“In those industries, training and skills are everything. If the labor force that can perform those new modern jobs are not present, these industries will not emerge. So, we need to train an ambitious number of our citizens,” he explained.
In his sponsorship of the measure in an earlier House panel hearing on the bill, House Bill No. 4417, Salceda said: “I did the economics. I studied the histories and the theories of national development. The evidence is clear that nothing is more important in determining the wealth of nations than the knowledge base of a country. If its workers can evolve as industries evolve, the country becomes wealthy.”
The bill was approved in principle February this year by the Committee on Government Reorganization and the Committee on Higher & Technical Education.
“Many resource-rich countries remain poor. Meanwhile, the world’s most astonishing economic success stories, from the Netherlands to Singapore, relied almost exclusively on the ingenuity of their people,” Salceda said.
Salceda lamented that TESDA only gets 2.5 percent of the annual budget for education, even if “arguably, TESDA has the most economic returns to its learners and to the country.”
Despite the considerable progress and many lives changed, the agency is facing various and enormous challenges to adapt to changing environments towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he said.
“We don’t need diplomas. We need skills. Much of our education spending is in churning out new graduates with very little job-relevant training,” the lawmaker said.
Salceda said he envisions TESDA as a department concerned not just with supplemental training or certification programs, but as a full career-planning and development agency similar to Singapore’s manpower development government office, Workforce Singapore.
“The Singapore model, an exemplar for career development, trains workers in a manner that fits the worker’s career path and goals. There is alignment with national development goals and industry needs. There is lifelong learning. I am so tired of for-show ‘continuing professional development’ programs,” he said.
“The for-compliance-only system of career development in this country, together with the diploma-mill curricula, have become a racket and a drain on our economic resources and productivity. We need genuine skills development. That is why I want more resources for TESDA,” he added.