MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday highlighted the need to strengthen and expand the country’s existing apprenticeship programs to address the current needs of the youth sector.
“Inaalala ko ang mga magulang. Dahil matapos naming maitawid sa pag-aaral ang mga anak namin, baka madismaya kami dahil sobrang napakahirap ang maghanap ng trabaho na akma sa pinaghirapang kurso ng aming mga anak,” she stated.
“Naniniwala akong sa pamamagitan ng apprenticeship programs ay manunumbalik ang tiwala ng mga magulang sa halaga ng edukasyon. Para matulungan ng kabataan ang kanilang mga sarili at ang kanilang mga pamilya.”
The senator identified the target youth apprentices as those aged 15 to 24 years old — particularly the ones who stopped going to school or have not been able to land jobs due to problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of youth categorized as not in employment, education, or training (NEET) had been in remarkable decline over the past years. For instance, in 2006, there were 4.7 million out-of-school or unemployed youth. Meanwhile, in January 2020, 16.9 percent or 3.4 million youth were out-of-school or unemployed.
Prior to the pandemic, though, the numbers were expected to make a one-time upward jump in April 2022, when the first batch of students under the country’s K-to-12 Basic Education Program graduate from college and add to the number looking for work.
However, as Hontiveros pointed out: “During the pandemic, and as early as April 2020, 25.3 percent of youth were in the NEET category — back to the highest levels in the past decade. And we expect still another jump.”
Hontiveros lamented that “if nothing is done,” industry experts say it could take some time before this year’s graduates are absorbed by the job market. “Inaasahang ilang taon pa raw mararanasan ang unemployment at underemployment kahit ng mga mas nakatatandang manggagawang mas marami na ang naging job experience. Karaniwang nauuna munang i-hire ng employers ang mga may experience na. Pero hindi naman pwedeng wala tayong gawin para sa kabataan,” she explained.
Thus, Hontiveros urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to expand its apprenticeship programs for the youth. The DOLE currently has three employment programs that benefit them. There’s the Jobstart Philippines Program (implemented in partnership with the private sector and LGUs for the benefit of at-risk youth); the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES); and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Apprenticeship and Learnership Programs.
Apart from the government’s apprenticeship programs, the senator noted that private firms should also take a more active role in mentoring the youth. “Most, if not all, businesses use digital tools and platforms for their operations,” she said. “The youth are digital natives. Perhaps, businesses can come up with apprenticeships in content creation or digital marketing.”
Hontiveros is also pushing youth agripreneurship for those in rural areas. “Meron tayong pending bill na magsusulong ng agrikultura at pagnenegosyo sa kanayunan. Para mapatunayan natin sa kabataan na may kinabukasan sa agrikultura,” she disclosed.
The senator reiterated that it is important for the youth and their parents not to lose hope, even as the country continues to reel from the effects of the pandemic. “Kahit na na-delay o natigil sila sa pag-aaral, dapat maramdaman nilang sulit ang mag-pursigi. Dapat malaman ng kabataan na hindi sayang ang pagsisikap nilang mag-aral dahil may katumbas itong maayos ng hanapbuhay.”