IN early 2015 Elidan Yu was a marketing major with no initial interest in the environ¬¬-ment. “My initial plan was to apply for a multinational company for my OJT (On-the-Job-Training), hoping to gain a lot of experience from big companies.”
But those plans didn’t pan out, as Yu became occupied with thesis writing, delaying his applying for larger corporations. He found himself carrying out his OJT requirements with an organization not as popular among marketing students.
“I was not expecting to learn a lot… thinking what could an NGO that preserves nature offer me?”
In 2014 alone, over half a million students joined the work force according to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Colleges offer OJT programs as prerequisites to graduation, providing additional leverage for their students before they enter the “real world” and the ultra-competitive job market.
Coupled with the Philippines having one of the highest unemployment rates in the ASEAN region (6.6 percent at the time of Yu’s OJT according to the Financial Times), it makes the job search even harder. Larger, resource-rich, for-profit companies are bombarded with CVs and resumes from young people hoping to get their feet wet and gain experience.
For Yu, it was different, obtaining his OJT work with the Haribon Foundation. A smaller not-for-profit NGO whose goals included increasing forest cover, not profit margins.
“I was tasked to do a lot of different things. I made posters for certain activities, vouchers for online competition prizes… I was also tasked to consolidate an old database with a new one for the membership department. They exposed me to all of the departments.” When asked about his friends working in multinational companies, Yu cites many of them felt miserable, making copies and coffee; work not necessarily contributing to large projects within the corporation.
Projects of the Haribon Foundation during Yu’s OJT included the Welcome to the Birds campaign, a world-wide effort headed by BirdLife International bringing ordinary citizens to the outdoors where hundreds of migratory birds visit rich wetland and forest habitats or the Biodiversity on Wheels program, where hundreds of children in urban areas learn about the importance of ecology and biodiversity.
“Because of limited salary budgets, volunteers make up the human resource in the small NGO,” states Philippine Council for NGO Certification guidebook. According to the Asian Development Bank, 70 percent of NGO revenues are from foreign donors, corporate donors and government. This limits NGOs to the availability of donations and increases their dependence on staff with a wider variety of skills, or volunteers willing to offer their services for free.
“NGOs need all the help they can get. That is why they will assign you with different and important tasks,” Yu adds.
In addition to putting on the hats of graphic designer to database manager, Yu also had the opportunity to give talks about the environment to other students, improving his understanding of environmental topics such as ecology and even bird watching.
“This [birdwatching]also made an impact to me, because a lot of commonly seen birds are starting to reduce in number and rare birds are starting to get rarer. Birds are the best indicators of biodiversity, so the decrease in birds is very much alarming. This made me even more concerned about the current situation of our environment.”
But how did subjects about birds and ecological processes help Yu? In May of 2015 he took an exam that was required prior to becoming a licensed real estate broker.
“The ecosystem/ecology part of the exam consists of around 40 items. A lot of other examinees were angry and frustrated because of the ecology portion, unlike myself who answered it easily because of my Haribon experience. My grade was only 79 percent with the passing percentage being 75 percent. Ten percent of the exam is about ecology. I could have failed the exam…”
In addition to enabling Yu to partake in his chosen career in real estate, he states, “Basically the definition of real estate is the land and everything below and above it. Real estate should not only be focused on profit, it should also be focused on developing urban and rural areas the right way. That is why the real estate industry should be a major part of environment conservation, because the real estate industry itself thrives and lives off of our environment.”
Now 24 years old, Yu will continue on to study law, and makes a strong recommendation to other OJT students to choose environment NGOs for their work placement.
“NGOs will assign you with important tasks unlike multinational companies. Most of those companies will make you a living photocopy machine.”
For more information on the Haribon Foundation On-the-Job-Training (OJT) program, email Evarose Capco at email@example.com today.
The Haribon Foundation is part of a network of advocates for the immediate imple¬-mentation of the National Land Use Act; it campaigns effective land use planning and seeks to establish a national framework for the allocation and management of the country’s finite land resources. CLUP Now! is a web of multi-sectoral NGOs, civil society groups, and political leaders serving as frontline stewards in the call for the passing of the NLUA. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.