When the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011, it painted a picture of the global economy at a time characterized by significant uncertainty.

According to the WEF, “Economies are advancing at different speeds and there is still a risk of a ‘double dip’ in a number of countries.”

It then went on to highlight 12 pillars that determine a country’s level of competitiveness, one of which is Higher Education and Training. “Quality higher education and training,” the report states, “is crucial for economies that want to move up the value chain beyond simple production processes and products.

Today’s globalizing economy requires countries to nurture pools of well-educated workers who are able to adapt rapidly to their changing environment and the evolving needs of the production system.”

The report further revealed that the Philippines ranked a poor seventh among nine Southeast Asian nations in the area of education, science and technology, and innovation. Such a shame because in a recent media roundtable discussion with Jobstreet.com, Marketing Director Yoda Buyco revealed that there is actually a surplus of jobs available in the country.

Mismatch between education and actual employment

In the recent Jobstreet.com JobGantic Career Fair 2011 last August, Buyco reports that over 158,000 job opportunities were made available to 25,000 jobseekers that came to SMX during the two-day event. “Ang daming trabaho available, both local and overseas,” Buyco shares, adding that this year, 242 employers participated in the event. The IT-BPO sector, in particular, has been the most active in hiring.

“They represent 40 percent of the postings in our website,” says Buyco. “If you visit our website today,” she adds, “you will see close to 45,000 job postings in the website. That’s just the number of postings, because if you multiply the number of job openings per posting—and some of them can range as high as 25 openings per posting—you’ll see that the total number of jobs available amount to around 250,000.”

Given the number of job opportunities available in the country, why then do we still find ourselves facing a high unemployment rate? According to Jobstreet.com Campus Specialist Maricar Estrabo, it isn’t for a lack of jobseekers or jobs available.

“One job posting in our website would actually generate over a hundred candidates, but walang nakukuhang candidate because they lack skills,” she shares, “and this is especially true for the fresh graduates segment, the ones with only one to four years of experience.”

It’s the reason why pirating employees remains a widespread trend in the BPO sector. “The common complaint among employers is that if they bank on the talents of our fresh graduates now, they end up spending a lot on training because most of our fresh graduates are not really equipped and prepared for the workforce. There are gaps from becoming a student to an employee,” reports Estrabo.

The National Internship Movement

In line with Jobstreet.com’s mission of “improving lives through better careers,” the company recently launched the National Internship Movement, with the goal to institutionalize a formal internship program in the Philippines.

“There is no national agenda on internship,” shares Estrabo, “so this is really for us to engage different sectors to help create a sustainable internship program for the youth. Our goal is to connect 1,000 employers and schools in three years.”

According to Estrabo, different sectors have already pledged their support for the movement. “The academe is putting up internship programs for schools, but they want a stronger linkage program with different employers,” she says, adding that over 100 employers have also pledged support by establishing internship programs in their respective companies.

“We also wanted to provide students the linkages with them for monitoring and assessment. We want a 360-degree monitoring and assessment for employers, students and schools,” Estrabo says.

For its part, Jobstreet.com will be providing a rendezvous for all sectors to meet by way of a micro-site where internship opportunities will be posted. “This is really our CSR (corporate social responsibility),” injects Buyco.

“Usually when an employer posts an ad about a job opening in our website, we charge them because that’s our core revenue stream. But for all internships,” she says, “we will waive the charge and give it for free. So for all of those wanting to participate in the National Internship Movement, they can post their internship programs in our website for free.”

The company also spearheaded a campus career event themed “Leadership plus the Power of Three” last September 20, and it gathered thousands of student leaders from over 100 participating colleges and universities.

Esteemed speakers and trainers discussed how student leaders should practice and maximize their leadership skills while honing the three most sought-after skills by employers: communication skills, critical thinking skills and initiative.

It’s a long journey to institutionalize a formal internship program in the Philippines, especially because “we are dealing with the national government. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we hope that when we send out a report to DOLE about the good and bad internship practices we will be able to gather from our initial run, the government will realize the value of standardizing the process,” concludes Buyco.

Published in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin, October 10, 2011