Skills development and Philippine competitiveness


(Part 2)

Monchito Ibrahim

The first part of this three-part series on the importance of skills development programs to enhance the competitiveness of the country basically highlighted the different government programs meant to produce the skills needed by the industry. With the advent of software algorithms and the pervasive use of the Internet of Things that connect and streamline human tasks, many organizations struggle with realigning the capabilities of their workforce with the emerging digital tools of Industry 4.0. Can they survive without adapting? There is no question that competitive companies would help result in a more competitive Philippines. But how can they adapt?

These questions cannot just be left to the government to provide the answers. The industries will have to do their part. Our workforce today has developed most of the skills required by the Industry 3.0 era. For them to move to the next world, they must “learn, unlearn and relearn” as Alvin Toffler has succinctly prescribed. For companies, it will not just be a matter of application upgrade. They will have to convey their workforces into entirely new realities. They will need to develop, not just the individual worker’s capability to learn new things but, more importantly, the willingness and desire to learn.

The Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) is one private-sector initiative that is at the forefront in terms of driving the development of a globally competitive Filipino workforce ready for the new roles of the future of work. As mentioned in the first part of this article series, they have partnered with the Analytics Association of the Philippines and CirroLytix in the conduct of the first-ever Labor Market Intelligence (LMI) study of the emerging data science and analytics (DSA) practice in the Philippines.

The study basically identified the extent of the DSA skills demand and supply situation in the country. It also categorized the different DSA job roles aimed at helping budding professionals choose their career tracks. Being a new field of practice in a country that is trying to move into becoming a data-driven nation, the results of the LMI study would be very valuable to both the organizations and the DSA workforce. It is worthwhile noting that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided financial support to the project which is part of a bigger PBEd  A Future That Works (AFW) initiative aimed at reducing the mismatch of jobs and skills and improving the competitiveness of the Philippine industries.

The AFW program also involves the creation of three sectoral skills councils (SSC). The Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP) will take care of the DSA sector. The semiconductor and electronics sector will be handled by the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (SEIPI) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Human Resources Development Foundation (PCCI-HRDF) handling the Food and Vegetable Processing Sector. With these SSCs, the project will develop and implement roadmaps for skills, develop sector-focused labor market reports, and contribute to kick-starting the Philippine economy as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Another private sector-led competency development initiative that is worth mentioning is the one being implemented by the Government-Academe-Industry Network (GAIN). The initiative is aimed at promoting the adoption of international standards for communication and digital skills of Philippine graduates and the workforce through a series of masterclasses in collaboration with various sectors. The main focus is the improvement of English communication skills and the development of digital skills. The international standards used are those of the International Society of Technology in Education, DigComp - which is the official digital framework of the European Union, and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, the most widely used framework for teaching and assessment for the English Language used by 120 countries.

These are just some of the private sector-led initiatives designed to make our Filipino workforce more competitive and ready for the future.  Moving to Industry 4.0 poses a major challenge to many organizations and industries. It is not just about digital transformation. Today, it is about developing learning agility among the workforce which would involve getting it to appreciate and internalize the reasons why it needs to be continuously learning. Artificial intelligence and robotics are not just about what used to be tightening bolts or assembling motherboards anymore. Today, they are starting to do the thinking for us, monitoring and managing our productivity. While humans are slowly letting go of these jobs, new roles are emerging. We all need to ensure that our workforce is well prepared to take them on.  It will also involve the dynamic transformation of how all facets of business and production are done. That way, we expect that Filipino businesses would become more competitive resulting in a better competitive position for the Philippines in the global value chain.

(The author is the lead convenor of the Alliance for Technology Innovators for the Nation (ATIN), vice president of the Analytics Association of the Philippines, and vice president of the UP System Information Technology Foundation.)