Senators urge swift action on fresh graduates’ job hunt woes

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines —Urgent action is needed to address the problem of fresh graduates lacking “soft skills” and practical expertise, as highlighted in a Commission on Human Rights report on challenges graduates faced during the pandemic, senators said on Wednesday.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada echoed the sentiment that youth employment has always been a perennial concern of the government.

“There are no silver bullets in ensuring our youth today develop learning and life skills. The problem entails a joint approach from all sectors. At the national policy level, I intend to institute reforms in the national apprenticeship program to address the needs of the youth sector,” he said in a statement.

But Estrada also urged the Department of Trade and Industry and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, among other concerned agencies, to ramp up and roll out training initiatives on “reskilling and upskilling” the workforce, particularly those who would soon seek employment.

“Hindi madaling mapunan ang mga kakulangan na dapat sana’y natutuhan ng ating mga kabataan sa mga face-to-face classes. Kailangan pagtulungan ng gobyerno at ng private sector ang mga hamon na ito. We need to institute reforms not only in the educational system that came up amid the pandemic but also in human resource development strategy,” he added.

(It’s not easy to fill the gaps that should have been learned by the youth in face-to-face classes. The government needs to work with the private sector to face this challenge. We need to institute reforms not only in the educational system that came up amid the pandemic but also in human resource development strategy.)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said it’s not a new problem for education, with solutions already studied and implemented.

“The question is, to what extent do the education authorities execute these recommendations?” she asked in a statement.

The legislator hoped that the second Education Commission (Edcom) would chart “a game-changing strategy” that would address the issues hounding the sector and that the leaders of education agencies are “committed and competent to execute it in partnership with the different stakeholders, especially the teachers and the students.”

“Time is of the essence in implementing education reforms. The last thing we need is an employment crisis on top of an education crisis, especially because our graduates are being thrust into a post-pandemic world of historical inflation with which many families are struggling. The government must support them in their hunt for sufficient livelihood,” Hontiveros said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara reiterated that the lack of soft skills among fresh graduates had been a problem even before the pandemic.

“It’s one of the concerns our educational system needs to address going forward, alongside poor reading comprehension, among others. Parents must also do their part as much as possible, though this is difficult with Overseas Filipino Worker parents and other realities on the ground,” he said in a separate statement.

But these, Angara noted, are already part of the discussions of the Edcom.

‘Honest-to-goodness’ review of K to 12

In a separate statement, Sen. Grace Poe likewise called on the government and the private sector to exert “serious effort” to address new graduates’ lack of soft skills and technical expertise, consequently preventing them from securing quality jobs.

She then pressed for an “honest-to-goodness review” on implementing the K to 12 programs to identify points for improvement “to make it more responsive and relevant to the needs of our students.”

“We hope concerned government agencies in charge of the review will make this a priority, which can also be useful to the joint congressional oversight committee on the K to 12 programs in its own assessment. We owe it to our learners to deliver on the promise of quality education and sustainable jobs,” Poe said.