Analysis of secondary/agency data (TESDA) shows that
1. Average employment rate at the national level among technical-vocational trainees was 27.7% from 2008 to 2010. Across the youth age groups, more 20-24 year olds were employed (21.28%). Across the working age groups however the 45-54 year olds had the highest rate of employment (73.1%).
2. Across the country’s regions, the following registered rates above the national average: Region IV-A (43.9%), Region IX (41.5%), Region VIII (39.0%), Region XI (36.8%), and Region II (36.4%). NCR or Metro Manila posted a rate of 26.3% which is below the national average then.
3. Relative to highest educational attainment, employment was highest among those who completed tertiary and higher education (41.5%), followed by college undergraduates (34.2%), and then those who completed elementary education (33.4%).
4. The trend appears to confirm the US National Bureau of Economic Research’ youth labor study in 1982,The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature Causes and Consequences’ in The Youth Labor Market Problem: Its Nature, Causes, and Consequences, that vocational training in high school shows little, if any, relationship to labor market success, even among youths who obtain no further education after high school. The study went on to conclude that academic performance in high school is positively related to both employment and wages after graduation and entry into the labor force.
What do these stats tell us? We say that technical-vocational training will revolutionize competitiveness of the country’s youth but why is that even for those who had technical-vocational training, employment is still as elusive?
First and foremost, a systems approach is the way to go in understanding the issue of jobs. To view the issue as one that is resolved by a formal education only or technical-vocational training only recommendation addresses only that aspect while failing to do so for the other conditions. Take the K-12 Program now in place. Well and good that technical-vocational education is now introduced in the middle school years. Given the statistics above however education or school managers should not sit back and feel confident that the Program will take care of itself, that is, the students will be employed after middle school if they so desire to work. No. The Program per se is not a guarantee for students’ employment (if they so desire to work after middle school). School managers need to be alert to other variables not captured in the Program’s M&E or results framework and as what effective managers do act accordingly. (By the way, many public school managers still lack the mindset and capacity to be managers. Many, because they were teachers before they were principals, “manage” the school as if it is merely a huge classroom filled with unruly students. Managing the globally-competitive school entails knowledge of and having the ability to put in place appropriate management models put forward by Drucker and his contemporaries. Many public school managers do not know how to raise funds for their own schools, relying solely on their quarterly funds from DepEd which on average are just enough to cover utilities incurred in debt. Like Local Chief Executives and middle managers in the LGUs, what they need is exposure in the management curriculum and atmosphere in top schools such as AIM. PHDs in Education are irrelevant for school managers. They have their teachers and curriculum specialists to teach and review/update the curriculum. What they need is a PHD in school management. So yes, quality education is also about quality school management. DepEd is not new to this. In fact, its School-Based Management System has this goal.)
Secondly, with regard to the NBER’s study’s conclusion that academic performance in high school is positively related to both employment and wages after graduation and entry into the labor force, employers hire the Top 3, Top 5, or Top 10 graduates. The cream of the crop. The best. Naturally. Unless those who are not in these ranks have compelling non-academic qualifications, “non-performers” find themselves in workplaces not necessarily in the industry of their specializations. So yes, students should also be aware that competitiveness is the name of the game. But competitiveness should not be viewed as stubbornly sticking to one’s academic specialization when the reality in the labor market is that it could only hire so much specialists. Competitiveness implies ability to spot opportunities, flexibility, creativity, and risk taking. What other talents do job seekers have? Then exploit these. But it should also be the job seeker’s choice. Call center agents who are university graduates who I’ve had some discussions with said they had no choice. But they have a choice. Schools should teach that (like their silence on sex education, it imparts to students that the world beyond the school corridors is one which is cozier than the reality so that when students actually step out into this world they get a shocking dose of cold brutality and most retract and have difficulty coping), through vocational guidance. The core components of a vocational guidance are: an appraisal service, an informational service, a counseling service, and a planning and placement and follow-up service. Schools and public agencies (PESO) stop at informational service usually a couple of hours inserted before graduation. The process to be effective should begin at the freshman year. It’s time the Guidance Office is seen beyond its role as the place students are called into when they misbehaved or have problems.
Thirdly, the stats concerning the higher employability rate of graduates of colleges and universities partly affirms the role of the minimum wage law in the hiring process as discussed in a previous article here.