TO help bridge the country’s skills gap, a lawmaker on Thursday filed a bill providing universal access to skills training and creation of a national skills development program.
In House Bill 7671, or the proposed 21st Century Skills Act, House Committee on Ways and Means and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said his bill seeks to open the labor’s force universal access to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) training and upskilling, as well as reskilling grants for displaced workers and the unemployed.
He said the bill will establish a national program known as SkillDev, which will provide universal access to annual training programs. The program places emphasis on job training for emerging, or resilient industries, such as the BPO sector and the digital economy.
“The bill will help modernize our outlook on labor from merely protecting jobs with mere regulation, notwithstanding trends in the economy that could render such jobs useless, to protecting workers by making them ready for the ever-changing jobs of the 21st century,” he said.
“Everyone above 15 years of age will get free skills training, every year. On top of this, there will be allowances for displaced workers and other vulnerable groups,” Salceda added.
The bill, he said, follows his model in Albay, which became the model for the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act, or UniFAST, or the country’s free college tuition scheme.
“We have several mindsets that hold our economy back. We think an office job is always the best kind of job. We think that a college diploma, regardless of skill set, will save us. There are high-value industries—most notably high-tech manufacturing, logistics, construction, and the BPO sector—that will hire you not for your degree, but for your skills,” Salceda said.
“These industries are here now, but they are struggling to find people with the skill set needed to get the job done, all while we have a persistent underemployment problem. Clearly, we need to bridge the skills gap, to develop both business and labor. This proposal is a win-win for all,” Salceda stated.
The bill proposed the creation of a Skills Development Account, which all Filipinos above 15 years of age will be entitled to. Annually, SDA holders will have 200 hours of free training that they can use to upskill, or reskill.
There will also be support services for SDA holders who are displaced workers, or who are formerly incarcerated persons seeking reentry into the labor force.
These support services include a living allowance during the training program, a childcare allowance when applicable, transportation allowance, training materials allowance, and career counseling services.
SDA holders will be entered into a national skills database which will help Tesda match skilled workers with labor demand. The trainings will be formulated based on labor market demand, as reflected in the annual skills demand reports at the regional and national level. The database will also be used for formulating national industry and labor policy, and programs to create higher-paying skilled jobs in the economy.