Page last updated at 08:39 UTC, Saturday, 14 December 2019 PH
It has been shown in the experiences of countries that have transitioned from low to middle and finally high-income status that the biggest increase in the share of consumption expenditures had to do with leisure, especially in entertainment and tourism. Note the billions of dollars being accumulated by such companies as Netflix and Disney Productions as well as enterprises, big and small, in the tourism sector. The Philippine tourism industry already accounts for the largest share of the GDP. Already there are close to 70 million Filipinos from the middle class who are the first tourists in their own country. Domestic tourism is a major contributor to our GDP. There will be millions of Filipino workers who will be needed in the tourism sector. Even if some jobs disappear in such service-oriented businesses as banking, retail and BPO-IT because of automation and Artificial Intelligence, the increase in the demand for the personalized services of tourism workers will more than compensate for those job losses.
Then there is the very observable trend for the large conglomerates to diversify their businesses into education and health services. Again, this is predictable since as household incomes increases, smaller percentage is spent on food and other basic items and a greater share is spent on education and health. This means that there will be wide opportunities for those who choose to go into these fields. There will be large increases in the demand for medical doctors, nurses, physical therapists, care givers and other health workers. The demand will come not only from the domestic market but even in greater numbers from the developed countries in the West and Northeast Asia that are suffering from the demographic crisis. Filipino health workers will be in great demand overseas. Even now the Japanese are sending language instructors to teach Filipino nurses and other health workers the Japanese language so that they can import them to take care of their ageing and sick persons. Even if the Philippines is able to reduce its poverty incidence to close to zero in the next twenty years, there will still be millions of Filipino overseas workers because of the preference that many countries have for Filipinos in the service sectors. We can say the same thing about Filipino teachers who will be in great demand abroad (even now, China is already importing English teachers from the Philippines). Above all, however, those who specialize in education will be in great demand in our own educational sector as tens of millions of students at all levels of schooling (especially basic education) will be entering better equipped schools, colleges and universities.
As mentioned above, the Build, Build, Build, program will not be limited to the present Duterte Administration. At least another 12 to 20 years will be needed for the Philippines to catch up with our more progressive neighbors in the quantity and quality of our infrastructures. This means that, in addition to civil, mechanical, electrical and other engineers who are crucial in the building process, there will be a large demand for technical skills in construction. Recently, President Duterte issued marching orders to TESDA to offer more courses that will support the Build, Build, Build program. In this regard, let us learn from the experiences over more than thirty years of one of the leading technical schools in the Philippines, the Dualtech School patterned after the German dualvoc system. In a recent publication of the school, we read the following observations: “The thousands (more than ten) of Dualtech alumni have proved that a technical education can be exciting, profitable, productive and can lead one to financial success. To be a technician is no longer the poor man’s profession. Good, high-paying jobs await qualified tech-voc graduates. In a good number of companies, a technical graduate who works as a heavy equipment technician can earn a lot more than an administrative officer with a college degree. Many partner companies have requested Dualtech for technical training for their machine operators. The technical training program aims to decrease down time on machines as these operators are now equipped with competencies that allow them to troubleshoot and make minor repairs. Aside from the value of the added skills received, these operator technicians get a significant increase in their pay.”
The experiences of the more than 10,000 graduates of Dualtech over the last 30 years would be indicative of the opportunities open to Filipino youth who choose the path of technical education over a college diploma in the coming years as the Philippines pursues the goal of completing not only the agricultural revolution that we missed but also the first three phases of industrialization that will require an abundance of electro-mechanical skills. As the Dualtech article states: “The bulk of students in Dualtech belong to Generation Z, or those born starting 1997. Because they are so-called digital natives, Generation Z’s learning styles are more visual and interactive as opposed to the traditional type of learning that is more teacher-centered. At Dualtech, ‘visual and interactive’ are referred to as ‘hands on’ learning. Students do bench-work, machining, stripping and splicing wires and running motors. What could be more ‘visual and interactive’ than these activities? The dual training system allows for long-term in-plant training. On the factory floor, these trainees see and feel what it would be like in the real world.” What is more, the more highly motivated among these Dualtech graduates can take advantage of the ladderized system by means of which they can eventually pursue an engineering degree. Having acquired a good and solid foundation on practical applications of technology, they can enroll in an equivalency accreditation program which leads to a bachelor’s degree by which they can learn the theory or science behind the technology. It is clear from the experience of Dualtech that a college diploma is not completely out of the picture in the career of a tech-voc graduate.
As demonstrated by the experiences of the Dualtech trainees, workers become more productive in complementing their electro-mechanical skills with digital technology. Again, quoting from the Dualtech publication: “There is a growing interdependency between IT and industrial control systems. Businesses will need to revisit how to understand these types of operational technologies. Considering that these systems are linked to real physical systems, organizations will need to find ways to seamlessly integrate them. We have seen these when plumbing meets electronics, inverter technology is used in air-conditioning and variable frequency drive is employed in motor control. A tech-voc graduate from Dualtech is already familiar with the processes and can easily assimilate the integration of IT with industrial controls.” In the Business World forum centering on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Anthony Oundjian, managing director and senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group, pointed out that while there will always be winners and losers in any revolution, it is important to stay on the “right side” of the narrative by treating technology as an enabler rather than a threat. (To be continued)