THE chairman of the House committee on ways and means has warned the country’s policymakers about a looming post-coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) labor problem — a huge number of jobless people amid vacancies for skilled workers that cannot be filled.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, panel chairman and also heads the House economic recovery and stimulus cluster, released a report regarding unskilled workers who cannot find work while jobs requiring skills are crying for qualified manpower.
Salceda pegged the number of skilled jobs to be left vacant at 2.4 million, or around 6% of the labor force.
“This will be a silent crisis, because it will only make itself seen gradually and in the households whose workers cannot find jobs and, in the businesses, where skilled jobs remain unfilled. In the aggregate, however, it will definitely bog us down,” Salceda said.
The House tax chief warned that many of the jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic will not return “simply because there will no longer be any need for them, even if businesses recover.”
“We’ve all moved online. Expect painful permanent shrinkages in the low-skill service sector, and a drag in real wages due to the oversupply of unskilled work, unless we are willing to make meaningful policy changes now,” Salceda warned.
“The bottomline of my report is: we need to prepare the workforce for a new economy. Our current education and training system, where we place value on diplomas and not skills, will just not do,” Salceda added.
A LOOMING SKILLS GAP
In his report titled, “The coming skills and employment gap and the case for education and training reform,” Salceda called for significant reforms in the training and education systems to meet the needs of new and emerging businesses.
Salceda cited growth in the BPO sector, which is projected to grow by 3.5 to 7.5% annually within the next three years.
“Without a reliable stream of well-trained talent for these growing industries, however, they will eventually move to our competitors in
India, Pakistan, and even increasingly, Vietnam,” Salceda said.
Salceda estimated that some 2.4 million skilled and well-paid jobs will be left unfilled within the next ten years if education and training systems are not improved meaningfully, and that at least 20 million new and existing workers will have to be trained, retrained, and retooled to keep the skilled worker supply-demand equilibrium in balance.
“The formula for new training and education systems will have to be access plus quality plus adaptability. We have to train as many Filipinos as possible to be very highly-skilled workers who can also very quickly adapt to new changes in industries,” Salceda said.
EDUCATION, TRAINING REFORMS PUSHED
Salceda enumerated his “Comprehensive Education Reform Agenda” as the policy response to the impending skills gap:
— The “21st Century Skills Development Act,” (HB 7671) will establish a
National Skills Development Program, known as SkillDev, which will provide universal access to annual training programs.
— The K to 12 Reform Act (HB 6247) will course-correct the K to 12 system to adapt to a more skills-driven labor market by making technical education a fundamental aspect of basic education, enhance the mother-tongue based learning system by ensuring that the language of instruction used is truly context-appropriate, and ensure that learning materials are audited, vetted, and objectively and independently reviewed and evaluated.
— The Meister Schools Act (HB 6287). Meister schools will produce master craftsmen who can bridge the high-skills gap of the country in the manufacturing and high-technology industries.
— Teacher Empowerment Act (HB 6231) to deload the teaching schedule, ease administrative functions, make teacher development, including continuing professional development, a state-funded effort, and open opportunities for teachers to pilot strategies that address challenges to learning. The proposal will also improve localization efforts by producing more locally-based teachers in remote areas.
— The Universal Free School Meals Act (HB 6295) will provide free nutritious meals for school children in public schools. Empirical evidence clearly establishes links between nutrition and educational outcomes .
— The Building Better Schools Act (HB 6370) will ensure that infrastructure programs for schools are data-driven, evidence-based, regionally-equitable, and efficient, and will guarantee a standard quality of life in all public schools.
— Public Schools of the Future Act (HB 311) seeks to introduce public school students into the digital world, by providing each with a laptop computer and access to the Internet, to prepare them for the “disruptive technologies” of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
— Last Mile Schools Act (HB 307) seeks to provide public schools facilities in geographically isolated and disadvantaged conflict-areas or GIDCA, and the access roads to all ‘Last Mile Schools’ nationwide.