Last year, we noted that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is trying to address the problem of at least a million “discouraged workers“, or jobless people available for work but are not actively seeking employment, as well as the prevailing skills mismatch among workers. According to a report, “jobseekers have difficulty finding jobs because they possess skills that are not needed by companies.” It takes “months or almost a year for employers to find the right workers to fill in vacancies in their companies,” the report quotes Criselda Sy, director of DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment.
This year, President Benigno Aquino noted in his State of the Nation Address (SONA: original Filipino version; official English translation) that “the number of jobs generated in our country can only grow from here. According to the Philjobnet website, every month there are 50,000 jobs that are not filled because the knowledge and skills of job seekers do not match the needs of the companies. We will not allow this opportunity to go to waste; at this very moment, DOLE, CHED, TESDA, and DepEd are working together to address this issue. Curricula will be reviewed and analyzed to better direct them to industries that are in need of workers, and students will be guided so that they may choose courses that will arm them with the skills apt for vacant jobs.”
For some time I have been confronted, both in my company and that of clients, with the mismatch between an employer’s requirements for a particular position and the qualifications of applicants. Indeed, there is no shortage of applicants, except that only a few have the necessary skills for the position to be filled up. We’ve talked about choosing a good college degree. It’s one thing to be in school for the sake of getting a diploma. Acquiring the skills is an entirely different matter. The qualifications may look impressive on paper and may lead to hiring, but employers usually require a probationary period to observe the actual skills and competence of an employee.
This could mean acquiring new skills that may be useful later on. “Luck” is the intersection of a great opportunity and the right skills. Continuing education could also mean constantly improving one’s craft through trainings, further studies and even self-education.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s not about the skills. There may be a good set of candidates, in terms of skills, for evaluation. Sometimes the problem is the attitude and personality of the applicant. The passion for work or the specific task, among others, is not there.
It may be true that employers get what they pay for. In this times of financial crunch and extreme competition, companies and other employers may deem it necessary to scrimp on salaries, bonuses and other benefits. On the other hand, I have encountered a number of companies, clients and non-clients alike, who are willing to pay way above the industry standard, if only they could find the person who fits the shoe. In this time of unemployment, it’s amazing to see many employers exerting so much effort and money to look for an applicant who has the required skills and preferred attitude for a particular position.
However, utmost care should be taken with respect to the solution proposed by the President — “curricula will be reviewed and analyzed to better direct them to industries that are in need of workers, and students will be guided so that they may choose courses that will arm them with the skills apt for vacant jobs.” Blindly pursuing this line of thinking will perpetuate the valid assessment that the Philippine school system has primed us to be employees, not entrepreneurs. We are creating an army of workers and forgetting the necessary governmental support/regulatory responsiveness to Filipino entrepreneurs. Nurture the entrepreneurs and you add a potent weapon in the arsenal of the war against unemployment. This, however, is a topic for another day.