Wednesday, April 19, 2006

New grads should ask Peter Favila for a job

The Philippine Star

A few weeks ago, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila commented that there are more than enough jobs available in the country but Pinoy jobseekers are just too fussy. I thought it was incredibly, a politically stupid thing to say for a senior Cabinet official, even if we assume it is true, which it definitely isn’t.

Pinoy teachers have degraded themselves for years to become caregivers and maids. Pinoy doctors have allowed themselves to become nurses. Pinoy lawyers have become fixers. And it is common knowledge that college graduates have taken jobs that are beneath their training and expectations. I have noticed that job fairs are always deluged by a large crowd of Pinoy jobseekers. How can Peter call them fussy?

The problem basically lies with government’s inability to expand the economy enough to absorb our backlog of unemployed and underemployed through the years, and the annual flood of unemployable college graduates as well. The National Statistics Office’s most recent jobs statistics indicate that of the 35.5 million Filipinos in the labor force, some 9.2 million or almost one-third are either completely unemployed (2.6 million) or underemployed (seven million).

But even this high level of unemployed is apparently understated. Former Sen. Ernesto "Boy" Herrera said there is a total of 1.1 million jobless able-bodied Filipinos who were expunged from the official unemployment count. This is due to a government redefinition of the "unemployed" in October 2004, and adopted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in April 2005.

Herrera, however, pointed out that the NSO itself had acknowledged that had the survey used the old definition of the unemployed, a total of 3.9 million Filipinos would have been classified as unemployed in January 2006, and the unemployment rate would have been pegged at 10.7 percent.

Senator Mar Roxas, who used to hold Fabulous Peter’s job, observed that the time has come once again to test government’s employment generation program as 450,000 new college graduates join the country’s burgeoning labor force this year. Even going abroad isn’t an easy option for most, Senator Roxas said.

"A lot of graduates will be competing for limited jobs and those who will not be employed locally will naturally seek employment overseas." But Roxas noted the overseas recruitment capacity of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) is pegged at only 250,000 OFW deployments annually. "Where will the rest who can’t go abroad go? They will join the ranks of the unemployed," he explained.

In a way, the college diploma can prove to be a disappointment to graduates and specially to their parents who invested a lot of resources on it. That’s because government has been unable to assure quality education by going after the diploma mills in our midst. Government has also failed to take steps to match college courses offered in Philippine schools with available jobs.

The market pretty much takes care of itself in the case of nursing and ICT courses. But it is a crime for many colleges and universities to be offering useless college courses like those in mass communication just because it is a sure money maker. How many mass communication jobs are really available on an annual basis for new graduates? And don’t get me started on the usefulness of the course in relation to a real career in mass media.

Yet, we have shortages in various areas, like airline pilots. Our ICT graduates are probably good enough for local jobs, but I remember then DTI Secretary Mar Roxas complaining that we are still unable to get enough of the graduates of our ICT schools to pass international certification tests. We also probably need a lot more accountants, with the growth in business processes outsourcing.

What Peter the Fabulous should have said is that unemployed Pinoys are not fussy as much as they are unable to take assured job openings here and abroad because they took the wrong college courses… or were inadequately trained by the diploma mills for the right ones. It is understandable for a college graduate to want to have a job that is more closely aligned to the skills he has learned from his studies, if he could have his rathers. That’s not necessarily being choosy in a negative way. Our graduates should have been given proper career counseling to begin with.

So, if you happen to be one of the thousands of masscom graduates this year, only a handful would be lucky enough to get a job in a broadcast station, newspaper or publication company that makes a profit and can promise a career. Many would spill out to the advertising business, but because the masscom curriculum hardly provides a good background in marketing, they would end up fetching coffee and running errands for years… albeit with a nice sounding title of account executive.

A very visible program in matching available jobs with jobseekers is a must. While this is probably more a concern of the Department of Labor, it was Fabulous Peter who opened his mouth with a broad chastisement of the Pinoy jobseeker. It was Peter who said that there are enough jobs around if the Pinoys are not choosy. I think the burden is on Peter to produce those jobs and provide assistance for job seekers in landing some of these jobs. Perhaps it is a good idea for jobseekers to go to DTI and ask Peter about those jobs.


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