What it Takes to be an Employable IT Graduate (Issue No. 13)


Introduction
The government and the private sector has been saying time and again that graduates of information and communications technology would have the brightest prospects of landing a job. Tri-media promotions feature the almost certain job acquisition of IT graduates in view of the perceived high demand in both the domestic and global labor markets. That being the case, why is it that a lot of our graduates remained unemployed? Why are they even resorting to street protests demanding the government for jobs if there are really demands for IT workers? Why is it that a lot of them belong to the so-called underemployed after being forced to accept material jobs? These are but some of the lingering questions that puzzled the minds of lot of Filipinos.

Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas, a well-known economist and professor provided a sound analysis of the current situation. In order to better appreciate the scenario he illustrated the difference between "knowledge workers" and "knowledge technologists" as defined by the famous management guru, Peter Drucker. At present, knowledge workers would mean to refer to those people with considerable knowledge and learning; doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, engineers. In contrast, knowledge technologist is basically a combination of manual and knowledge workers as they usually spend more time working with their hands than with their brains. Worth nothing, however, is that their manual work is based on substantial amount of theoretical knowledge which can only be acquired through formal education not through the apprenticeship mode.

Based on the definition, what are being produced by the country's computer training institutions are the typical "knowledge technologists" while our university graduates are considered "knowledge workers" because their training and work orientation would entail mostly intellectual efforts.

Why are IT Graduates Unemployed?

What then seems to be the problem? What went wrong? The high unemployment rate of IT graduates would boil down to the problem of mismatch. The emerging and future needs of the Philippines in the field of ICT would be for knowledge workers since the country is home to the fastest growing segment of ICT-enabled services, the so called call or customer interaction services centers. These centers employ not the graduates of the computer training institutes but the products of colleges and universities that give good liberal arts training, especially English proficiency courses.

The other area where the Philippines play a major role is in the worldwide services outsourcing industry. These include medical transcription services outsourcing industry. These include medical transcription services, animation, architectural and engineering designs, accounting and financial services, as well as legal services. Again, what gets to be employed are nurses, engineers, architects and lawyers with minimal computer proficiency and not the computer graduates. However, what are being produced by our computer institutions are mostly computer engineers and technicians. Definitely, they are needed to run the information systems of large companies such as banks, manufacturing concerns, logistics and supply chain enterprises, energy and telecom companies. Unfortunately, the demand for these kind of manpower is rather limited in the Philippines. It is true that countries like the US, Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries are actively recruiting Filipino computer professionals. This is a classic case of supply and demand as the combined domestic and overseas demand could not absorb the estimated 30.000 IT graduates annually.

What Needs To Be Done?

STRONG PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR PARTNERSHIP

The government and the private sector need to collaborate with each other in various facets of information technology. The most important thing would be in policy setting as the government defines the policies that will govern IT education in the country. This must be done in close coordination with the private sector being the users of the outputs of the educational and training institutions. The information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC) is a good public-private sector collaboration on policy setting in various areas of information and communications technology.

CURRICULUM ALIGNED WITH GLOBAL STANDARDS

The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) offers vast opportunities and challenges. With the adoption of the internet technology, the Philippines is definitely opening to the world fast. With this, the country needs to be globally competitive. Thus, the curriculum and courseware of the Philippine IT schools and training centers must be a par with global standards. The courses must be focused, updated, and accredited and accepted by the industry experts. It is necessary that the curriculum should aspire to develop well-rounded individuals to cope with the ever-increasing global demand to handle multi-tasking activities. Since the information technology scene is growing and changing at breathtaking speed, the schools must be linked with industry to remain relevant and productive. The school which establishes and maintains strong ties with the business world will be able to harness the technical expertise and new technologies from seasoned professionals from the industry.

TEACHERS / TRAINORS ARE VITAL

The school / center whether IT or non-IT is only as good as its instructors. As the saying goes "You cannot give what you do not have", teachers / trainors must have the proper certification that they are qualified to teach and are certified by the industry experts. Thus, an individual teaching any programming language must be licensed and certified as one.

The methodology of teaching must be a proper mix of all the necessary ingredients to maximize learning. For IT, a combination of lecture, practice and assessment are all equally important and must be simulated from the actual program and environment. Towards the accomplishment of excellent lecture, practice and assessment, the right tools for learning especially the hardware, software and infrastructure must be up-to-date and accessible for the students and faculty.

QUALITY ADHERENCE
Before, the quality of the education / training institution is measured by the performance of its graduates in examinations and certifications, length of existence, faculty profile, etc. At present, however, especially with the proliferation of IT schools, other criteria must be accredited by CHED while for non-degree institutions, they must be accredited by TESDA's Unified TVET Program Registration and Accreditation System (UTPRAS) would be the seal of ISO certification and recognition given by other recognized accrediting bodies especially from both the government and the private sector.

IN SUMMARY:

  • IT unemployment is basically a problem of supply-demand mismatch
  • Educational and training institutions in the Philippines produced an oversupply of computer science / engineering graduates and technicians that could not be absorbed by the labor market
  • Demands would be in the area of customer contact centers, medical and legal transcription, animation, architectural and engineering design services, accounting and financial services
  • Close public-private sector partnership would be vital especially in policy/ direction setting, curriculum standards development, quality assurance and teachers/ trainors qualifications
  • TESDA's Unified TVET Program Registration and Accreditation System (UTPRAS) must be strengthened for quality assurance
 
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