A HOUSE leader has filed a bill to provide universal access to skills training and create a national skills development program to help bridge the country’s skills gap and provide decent, higher-paying employment for the country’s labor force.
Titled the “21st Century Skills Act,” House Bill (HB) 7671 filed by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of House House committee on ways and means, will establish a national program known as SkillDev, which will provide universal access to annual training programs. The program places an emphasis on job training for emerging or resilient industries such as the BPO sector and the digital economy.
Salceda said the proposal “will help modernize our outlook on labor from merely protecting jobs with mere regulation, notwithstanding trends in the economy that could render such jobs useless, to protecting workers by making them ready for the ever-changing jobs of the 21st century.”
“Everyone above 15 years of age will get free skills training, every year. On top of this, there will be allowances for displaced workers and other vulnerable groups,” Salceda said.
The bill, Salceda said, follows his model in Albay, first as governor, then as congressman, when he would sponsor skills development programs to complement the province’s pioneering assisted college tuition scheme, which became the model for the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST), or the country’s free college tuition scheme. Salceda has been consistently recognized by
TESDA as a champion for skills development
“We have several mindsets that hold our economy back. We think an office job is always the best kind of job. We think that a college diploma, regardless of skill set, will save us. There are high-value industries – most notably high-tech manufacturing, logistics, construction, and the BPO sector – that will hire you not for your degree, but for your skills,” Salceda said.
“These industries are here now, but they are struggling to find people with the skillset needed to get the job done. All while we have a persistent underemployment problem. Clearly, we need to bridge the skills gap, to develop both business and labor. This proposal is a win-win for all,” Salceda added.
Salceda’s bill will create a Skills Development Account (SDA), which all Filipinos above 15 years of age will be entitled to. Annually, SDA holders will have 200 hours of free training that they can use to upskill or reskill.
There will also be support services for SDA holders who are displaced workers or who are formerly incarcerated persons seeking reentry into the labor force. These support services include a living allowance during the training program, a childcare allowance when applicable, transportation allowance, training materials allowance, and career counselling services, he said.
Salceda said SDA holders will be entered into a national skills database which will help TESDA match skilled workers with labor demand.
He said the trainings themselves will be formulated based on labor market demand, as reflected in the annual skills demand reports at the regional and national level. The database will also be used for formulating national industry and labor policy, and programs to create higher-paying skilled jobs in the economy.
Salceda’s bill also provides grants for the private sector to develop training programs that can be accredited under SkillDev. The proposal also encourages partnerships and collaboration between the government, labor organizations, and the private sector to formulate trainings and plans for job creation and skill upgrading.