Educators, employers need to join forces to reduce education-work mismatch

Academe and industry have to work more closely together to narrow the wide education-employment mismatch, have a clearer understanding of the manpower needs of business, and better prepare students for the future workplace, according to an education expert.

Christopher Tan, chief operating officer of Phinma Education Philippines, said in a recent online presentation that more needs to be done by both academia and industry if the education-job mismatch in the country is ever to be resolved.

Both the supply and demand sides are driving this mismatch, Tan said. For schools, he noted that currently, “the academe does not necessarily see employers as their clients. Their main accountability is to the students and their parents and their main accountability ends after graduation.”

He said there is a need for educational institutions to “flip the system” and focus not just on the diploma or degree but on the workplace as the final destination and employment of their students as the end goal.

“If we focus on employment, then it becomes natural for us to reach out to employers and ask employers, ‘What competencies do you need now and what competencies do you need five years from now so that we can develop the curriculum to adjust to those needs?’ Currently our curriculum does not take those considerations into account,” Tan said.

Employers also play a part in the widening education-employment gap, he continued, noting their “tendency to require more qualifications than the functions that they require” because of a general oversupply of labor so that “we end up having job descriptions that require qualifications that are not needed for the jobs that the students actually do.”

Tan also said the significant education-work mismatch confronting the country right now has consequences in terms of wages received by the workers. Citing a recent publication by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, he said that 2012 figures show that only 34% of Filipino workers were adequately educated and therefore adequately compensated for their work.
Meanwhile, some 38% of workers were found to be overeducated for the work they do, leading to diminishing return for their qualifications as the years pass, while 28% were undereducated or under qualified and thus earning much less than the adequately educated.

Tan recommended the creation of more joint councils between the academia and business and the holding of regular meetings with the aim to support the human capital needs of industry and help students find “a clear, more concrete path toward employment.”

In a separate speech at a recent business event, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual acknowledged the mismatch, saying study findings show that domestic skills development is challenged by issues such as insufficient skills upgrading and a lack of workers with the skills required by innovative firms.
However, Pascual also assured that the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investment (BOI) is working with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on a national skills mapping and survey on human resource development to address this mismatch.

BOI is promoting academe-industry matching with projects that will identify appropriate interventions to minimize skills mismatch and foster interest among university students to take future-ready programs or courses, he said.

Pascual added that DTI is also working with the Department of Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and CHED to implement the Philippine Skills Framework, which employers can use to identify necessary skills and competencies for the jobs in their industries.
The framework can also be used by educational institutions to revise existing curricula and design new courses to bridge the skills and competencies of the workers as they upgrade to desired occupations.

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