Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Penny Bongato, Speech No. 3: Our Role in Education – Take the Challenge

Delivered on October 23, 2014

Penny Bongato (Photo courtesy of Elaine Romero)
According to the National Economic Development Authority, unemployment rate in April 2013 increased to 7.5% from 6.9% in 2012.   Majority of the unemployed were high school graduates at 31.7 percent. Followed by:  college graduates at 21.3 percent) and college undergraduates at 14.6 percent. About half (48.2 percent) of the unemployed were aged 15-24 years old.
NEDA Deputy Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra said, “There is a need to improve the employ-ability of worker applicants, particularly those with secondary and tertiary education.” He further stated that we need a more effective partnership among firms,   academe and the government  to work on curriculum design." 
Curriculum gaps—these seem to be the problem. Graduates don’t have the employ-ability skills needed by companies.  This seems to be a continuing saga. Is there a way out of this? Is there something we can do to change our situation? The good news is there is. The other good news is that You are part of the solution.
Tonight I will share with you how YOU can make a difference and help our students be ready and prepare themselves to join the work force. Tonight I will show you HOW you can help. Are you ready?
Let me share with you three things – what is happening now, what has been started, what all of us can do to make a difference.
First, what is happening now.
As you know, I am part of the information technology and business process management industry. Many know us as call centers. Call centers are the biggest sector of our industry, hiring more than 8,000 agents a month. You heard me right, 8,000 a month! What keeps us awake at night is recruitment! We can’t seem to find the qualified talents for the job. There is a mismatch between what companies need and what is available in the talent pool!
This leads me to my second point: what have we done? Seeing the needs of the industry, a group of volunteers from several companies in our industry – HP, Accenture, IBM, Stream, now Convergys and other companies, together with members of the academe from Asia Pacific college, JRU, Our Lady of Fatima, saw the competency gaps we mentioned earlier. Then they came together to work on a curriculum to address these gaps. This curriculum was presented to the Commission on Higher Education. It was approved in 2012 to be a minor in college, in business administration and Information Technology. Five subjects were  developed, to help our students prepare for immediate employment after graduation, namely: Systems Thinking to address critical thinking, Business Communication, Service Culture and Fundamentals of IT-BPO 101 and 102, to give the students an overview of the IT-BPM industry.

Based on the feedback we received from the academe, this is the first time that an industry initiated curriculum has been offered in college.  This is a concrete step to reach out to the academe, a chance for education reform and improvement.
So that’s where we are: we now have a curriculum initiated and developed by the industry.
The third point and perhaps the most important one:  Who will teach it?  Teachers don’t know the content! The answer to who: It’s people like you— Industry practitioners. Is this viable? Yes. In fact, we've already conducted a pilot run. This is where the extraordinary contributions happened.  , Industry practitioners from HR, Training and even operations, volunteered They taught in the schools, 3 hours per week, right in the classroom. And the most amazing thing – they taught for FREE. A pilot was done in 3 universities with 54 volunteers!  Believe you me, even I was astonished. I realized that given a chance, many would like to volunteer and make a difference.
You might say, “Sounds exciting Penny but that’s only for your industry.”
No, it is not!  It is for all of us.  How do you volunteer? If you are part of the IT-BPM industry, there are several schools already offering the Service Management Program. That’s SMP. I can help you find a school where they will gladly take practitioners to teach, with minimal pay.
However, if you are belong to another industry, there is still a way to help. Volunteer to teach in a school or university nearest you. This way, you are closer to the students and you can help them be more prepared even before they graduate.
As Benedict Hernandez, IBPAP’s former CEO and President said, “Now is your chance to volunteer and get involved. If you don’t get involved, you have no right to complain.”  Are you ready to take the challenge? The next step now is YOURS.

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