04 November 2010

SBMA hosts Region 3 dialogue on employment gaps

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) recently hosted a dialogue among executives from the business community, local government agencies and the academe to address employment gaps in Central Luzon, which is now a leading economic growth center.

SBMA labor department manager Severo Pastor Jr. said the annual Labor Matching Congress, which is now on its fifth year, has pooled together officials from the SBMA, Clark Development Corp. (CDC), and the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), as well as representatives from the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC), Metro Olongapo Business Club (MOBC), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Public Employment Services Office (PESO), and various schools and local government units in the region.

Pastor, who is the concurrent president of the Subic Bay Workforce Development Foundation, Inc., said the labor-matching dialogue was held because many workers in the region remain unemployed despite the presence of four special economic zones in the area.

According to CHED Region 3 director Maura Consolacion Cristobal, the 2009 records of her office indicated that the courses that registered the highest enrolment are business education, health-related courses including nursing; information technology; and teacher education.

“We already have an excess of graduates in these courses, and we have employment gaps, both qualitative and quantitative,” Cristobal said.

She added that in order to address the over-population in the said four programs, CHED has issued Memorandum Order No. 32, which enjoined all schools not to accept enrollees in the four courses in all levels.

Cristobal added that the move was also meant to strengthen the under-subscribed programs like agriculture, engineering, science, arts and technology, and fisheries, by offering scholarship grants to students enrolling in these programs.

In Subic, meanwhile, SBMA administrator Arreza said that to maximize employment of workers in the Subic Bay area, the agency is now focusing on specific sectors where Subic has the competitive advantage. These include logistics, shipbuilding, tourism, and information technology.

“We want to make sure that we are all set up on the right direction,” Arreza said. “We are looking for our own ‘Manny Pacquiao’ — locators in the Freeport that will defeat any challenger.”

He pointed out that in the case of Hanjin, the Korean shipbuilder has in its list of orders a total of 55 ships, which amount to US$4 billion. With 40 percent of the value going to components that could be manufactured locally, the ship orders could yield about US$1.6 billion for the local economy.

“That is why we encourage a lot of entrepreneurs to explore and look into this sector, as well, and manufacture the 40 percent that Hanjin imports from other countries. This way, we can create more jobs,” Arreza said.

The SBMA official likewise announced that Hanjin also needs marine engineers that are now in short supply in the Philippines since most colleges and universities in the country have stopped offering marine engineering courses and shifted instead to nursing or IT.

“If we build these industries, the SBMA Labor Center has to provide the manpower necessary for these industries to become Manny Pacquiao,” Arreza noted.

In the dialogue, CDC vice-president for business Ernesto Gorospe said that manpower needs in the Clark Freeport include openings for pilots, business processing outsourcing technicians, call center agents, semiconductor technicians, and other skilled workers.

Pastor meanwhile thanked the CHED for accrediting some of schools in the Subic Bay Freeport that introduced new courses in aeronautical maintenance, vocational technical education related to electronics and shipbuilding, and manpower support for tourism such as catering, housekeeping, bar-tending, among others.

“These are giant little steps to patch manpower mismatch in the Subic Bay Freeport,” Pastor said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)