University of Makati gets its students job-ready

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By 2015, the 11 countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), including the Philippines, are expected to become a “borderless” region, where free movement of capital, investment, goods, services and skilled labor should exist.

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For the everyday Filipino, specifically the youth, this prospect brings good news, for it means that fresh graduates will be able to apply for jobs in any Asean-member country without the need for working visas.  In other words, Filipinos by then can hope to secure jobs, not just as domestic helpers as most OFWs are today, but as professionals.

There still remains one hurdle though: Filipinos will naturally have to compete with job-seekers from other countries in the region, who might be better educated and prepared to qualify for the region’s professional workforce.

According to data from the Philippine Business for Education (PBed), the country continues to suffer from issues of “job mismatch” between the skills required by specific businesses and industries and those of the graduates produced by higher education institutions (HEIs). Most of the specific problems are deeply rooted in deficiencies of elementary and secondary education in the country, which in fact, is what about the installation of the current K to12 program.

However, for Professor Tomas Lopez Jr., president of the University of Makati (UMak), the “job mismatch” phenomenon no longer proves to be a problem for his institution.

According to the top man of UMak, they had long addressed the issue when they revamped and changed the university’s curriculum in 2010, and again at the onset of the K to 12 program in 2012.

Enrolment to employment
When Lopez joined UMak in 2010, he realized that many residents of Makati found it hard to find employment in the country’s central business district due to lack of qualifications.

“It was ironic because Makati is considered the business and financial center of the Philippines,” the professor recalled.

“Since our role is to ensure that the residents of Makati, particularly the young, are able to partake competitively of the economic fruits that are being grown in the city, we talked with the private sectors and asked them what they needed, and [from those discussions]revamped our curriculum and offerings,” he added.

UMak partnered with about 700 public and private institutions that helped the board create a more focused curriculum.  Soon enough, these same institutions were hiring deserving graduates of the different courses at the university, which set into motion an enrolment to employment system.

Today, between 70 to 75 percent of UMak’s students are enrolled in a “dualized university education system,” which as described by Lopez, “are courses that are unabashedly aligned with the work-force competency needs of the City of Makati.”

K to 12 success
Professor Lopez is also happy to note the breakthroughs of UMak’s K to 12 Senior High School Program (SHSP).

The program kicked off in 2010 when the Department of Education (DepEd) saw the need to reform the 10-year basic education program. Back then, the Philippines was the sole country in Asia, and among only three countries in the world, still using the six-year of elementary and four-year high school systems.

Since the 10-year curriculum was too congested and lacked specialization, resulting in poor performance in national and international exams (especially in Math and Science), the DepEd prepared the schools for a gradual transformation to K to 12 by 2012.

UMak, however, implemented the change two years before the national deadline, and produced the first 3,246 students graduates of K to 12.

Lopez also credits Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. for throwing his government’s full logistical and financial support behind his bold decision.

Of the 33 schools, which were originally tapped by DepEd in 2012 to offer the SHSP, UMak was the only one that risked its full implementing. The other schools merely opted to test the system with one or two sections.

Thankful that his aggressive move became a success, Lopez is convinced, “This educational reform can be the key to unlock the full potential of the 21st century Filipino,” the professor ended.

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