Our Role in Youth Empowerment Skills Program

October 20, 2022
by: Ma. Eliza Margarita E. Magkasi, Ph.D.

Dr. Liza E. Magkasi's Presentation on Skills Gap

EFAM Training represented the Philippines at the 2nd International Conference of the United Nation World Peace Association held at Sapporo, Japan with the theme “One Heart for Planet”. The conference was attended by select representatives from 18 different countries due to the restrictions implemented by the country.

I, who was one of the resource speakers and also happens to be the host of the said conference, shared with the attendees the job skills mismatch in the Philippines. I highlighted the source of the gap identified after an interview with EFAM Training’s international company partners in the United Kingdom, United States of America, and Japan; as well as the quick survey results participated by the EFAM trainees. The main source of the gap was the varying interests of the schools’ stakeholders that has to be satisfied. 1. Students and Parents.
Students are considered both a customer and a product of a school. Students are their customers for the entire duration that they are studying in school while a product to the industry after their graduation. As a customer, the schools will satisfy the needs of the students as well as their parents. However, in doing so, the schools sacrifice the implementation of the industry standards such as the need for a break if the students ask for it, coming to class late because of the grace period provided by the school, the extension of deadlines to accommodate the requests of the students, family-type relationship or environment instead of a professional environment, and the flow of information from the teacher to the students. As per the partner companies of EFAM Training, the students are spoon-fed and they carry their attitude, standards, and practices in school to the industry which do not match. The students are only exposed to industry standards during their internship. That is why the trainees, based on the survey, are requesting to be given longer hours for internship or immersion, tasks that relate to the industry, and quality over quantity of tasks that would train them to gain the skills required by the industry.

2. School Focusing on Accreditation.
Schools are very busy preparing for accreditations, both local and international because being accredited by various organizations connotes quality education. However, in doing so, the teachers are given additional tasks aside from their usual teaching schedule. The school even foregoes intensive faculty training in the industry for skills updating due to the lack of faculty members who will replace them while they are on leave. With this, the teachers result to theory-based teaching or share outdated practices and software applications. The teachers, who should be transferring their skills to their students, result in providing voluminous tasks which do not relate to the actual industry, as per the trainees. That is why, during their internship, they do not know some of the applications or the standards that the trainees know are different from what is implemented by the company to where they are assigned. There were few teachers who come from the industry. However, the number is not enough to spread the industry standards to the student population.

To address the matter, I sought the assistance of UNWPA members in providing skills training for the teachers because this will not only solve the problem in the Philippines but also in other countries that are experiencing the same issue. The following degree programs will be prioritized in the skills training: Agriculture, Hotel and Restaurant, Information Technology, and Caregiving Services. EFAM Training supports the call of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to address the job skills mismatch. We are thankful that Japanese representatives are ready to extend assistance to the country.

Reflection on Interns’ Experience and Their Recommendations to Schools

November 15, 2021
by: Ma. Eliza Margarita E. Magkasi, Ph.D.

Virtual internships started during the pandemic. Schools implemented various modes of virtual internship such as school-based and industry-based. Some of the school-based virtual internships include project development, business development, case writing, and analysis, and return demo videos while some of the industry-based virtual internships include module-based programs and virtual deployment in local and international companies. Today we will reflect on the recommendations of some interns who availed of the international virtual internship program to learn the industry while staying at home. We intend to use this reflection to help the schools prepare the next interns whether virtual or actual deployment.

1. Schools should partner with companies that will offer tasks related to the degree program of the interns.
Most of the interns said that their school should select carefully where they will be deployed virtually to ensure that the company or tasks are related to their program. I understand that there are schools that allow virtual internships that will enhance not only the skills of the interns that are related to the degree program but also the other skills that they use in their extracurricular activities. These schools train their students to become a jack of all trades which means that the students should be multi-skilled so that there will be a higher chance of getting employed or finding ways to earn money, especially amidst the pandemic. It was published recently that the unemployment rate of the Philippines is at 8.9% (www.rappler.com). Interns should be thankful because their school allowed them to enhance not only the skills that they learned in their program but also their other skills that will make them competitive in the industry.

In international companies, some tasks can be done regardless of the degree program such as social media marketing and administrative tasks. As long as the intern is knowledgeable in any photo and video editing applications as well as MS Office applications, they can be accepted. There are employees too whose degree programs are not related to their current job. Some of their reasons are they followed their interest, the trend to be able to survive the competition, or for some, their program is not really what they want so after graduation they pursued their dream. Anyway, all students were given the free will to apply to different companies for their virtual internships. I strongly suggest that the interns take full responsibility for their decision and not point out to the school the fault if they find their decision erroneous in the end.

2. Schools should offer subjects that are needed by the industry.
Some of the interns found themselves not proficient in the use of MS Office, Canva, and other editing applications. Some of the IT interns also found themselves not familiar with the web programs used by the industry such as WordPress. I agree with the interns’ recommendation. Schools should establish an active partnership with their alumni or industry partners to know the recent technologies and applications used. It is not enough that the schools know the latest in the industry. They must also train their faculty members so that the knowledge can be transferred to the students.

3. Focus on communication skills.
Some interns found themselves unable to understand well the words used by the international countries such as the expressions used in the United Kingdom. Also, some interns found it difficult to express themselves because they are not used to communicating in English. I too noticed the communication problem during the interview. Only a few would be able to express themselves in English confidently. Thus, the interns suggested that the schools should focus on improving the communication skills of the students who wish to join the international internship. I believe that schools have been campaigning the use of the English language. However, it is up to the students how they will take advantage of each class meeting to improve their communication skills. Thus, this recommendation goes to the students because it is for their development.

4. Organize seminars that will show the overview of the industry to the students.
The interns recommended the organization of seminars to prepare them for the industry. Schools have been very active in creating events and seminars to prepare the students for the real world. During the pandemic, webinars became the trend so the students will learn from the industry while staying at home. However, not all students take these opportunities seriously. The recommendation then should go to the students who would like to succeed in the industry whether local or international. They should attend the webinars and activities organized by their school for them to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitude when they have their internship.

Most of the recommendations of the interns are already performed by the schools. However, they fail to understand the reasons why schools are implementing such policies like the use of the English language, and the organization of various webinars and activities. They also did not take advantage of the opportunities provided to them while they are in school. It will be best if the schools will always inform the students of the objectives of each of the activities and policies which is related to their preparation for the industry.

 

Basic Skills Needed by the Students: Advancing Internship Applications

July 22, 2021
by: Ma. Eliza Margarita E. Magkasi, Ph.D.

Just when we thought that we can manage the pandemic since vaccines are already available, a new variant was discovered which is more contagious and has severe effects. Nobody can predict when the pandemic will be over or what the new normal will finally be. One thing is for sure, as per CHED, it will not be the same as before. Thus, we need to accept the fact that flexible learning is here to stay. Virtual learning and work from home will be part of the new normal.

In my past 15 years in the academe, we have been trying to bridge the gap between the academe and the industry by integrating the needed skills in the curriculum so that when the students join the workforce, they will be able to survive the tough competition and demands of the industry. The subjects are enriched with different activities and topics that will prepare the students for the future. However, did the students become work-ready with all those curriculum enhancements implemented by the schools?
Today, with my experience in deploying students internationally and virtually for their training, I have witnessed that there are basic skills that the students should learn before they apply for their internship. Regardless of the discipline, all should be able to perform the following basic tasks to be competent and competitive:

1. Research and Data Entry
Students should be proficient in the use of MS Office particularly Word and Excel. In business, research may include data gathering, historical data analysis, and market and sales analysis. To conduct these researches and generate the needed information for the decision-making of the company, MS Excel is a must. Some students can perform the basic operations in MS Excel but very few would know how to use the pivot table, concatenate, VLOOKUP, and some other formula that is needed by the industry to make research and data entry more efficient.

2. Graphic Design
Merriam Webster defines graphic design as the “art or profession of using design elements (such as typography and images) to convey information or create an effect”. Many companies look for social media marketing interns since this is one of the tasks that can be done virtually. I am glad that almost all of the students know how to use different applications to create a poster, invitation, banner, and other materials related to it. Some of the common applications used are Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop, and Canva. But learning how to use the application is not enough. The students should also tap their creative and artistic side to create a design that will achieve the ultimate purpose of the material, that is to engage its target market.

3. Video editing
The use of video editing applications is now easy because of the user-friendly and free downloadable applications available for both computer and mobile phone platforms. However, it is not enough that students know how to use these applications. In video editing, it is important that they also know how to prepare the content. Similar to poster creation, content is very important. Duration and transition should also be considered. The average length of a TV commercial is 15 seconds. However, these may vary depending on the content as long as the video does not bore the viewers.

4. Content Writing
A student should be able to prepare a write-up on the given topic. To accomplish this task, the student must be a good reader, has critical and analytical thinking, can conduct research, has organized thoughts, and can look at different perspectives. As observed, not many students now would like to read, are very spontaneous, and tend to have a negative outlook. They easily follow the stand of the majority and do not analyze the matter at hand.

For the students to develop the basic technical skills needed to perform these tasks, schools should give performance tasks and exams where these outputs will be required. Schools may also enhance their curriculum by adding these topics to their subject. The use of the latest technology and applications are very important since international companies adapt fast to the latest trends. However, aside from schools integrating topics and activities in their curriculum, it is also highly encouraged that the students teach themselves through the use of the tutorials available online.

In addition to the basic technical skills, schools should continue to impart soft skills such as being a team player, flexible, adaptable, and time-conscious.

1. Team Player
Companies allow the students to perform the tasks as a team. No student should let others perform the task without any contribution. Companies know if the output is done by a team or by only a few members. If schools are used to accepting any output of the student whether it is poorly done or well done, in the industry, they will only accept the output that is done correctly and accurately according to their given instructions. There is no room for error. Otherwise, students will keep on repeating the task, or worst, assign it to others. When tasks are re-assigned, it means the incompetence of the worker.

2. Flexible
Once students submit their resumes, they should be ready for an interview anytime. They cannot argue or complain of the short notice. The slots for internships are limited. Thus, it is a take it or leave it invitation. The company will never wait for anyone as many students are applying for the same spot. Moreover, if students are used to complaining about anything whenever they feel pressured, in the industry, such is never tolerated. They need to accept whatever task was given to them that is related to the company’s operations, and follow the practices of the company otherwise, they are always free to leave.

3. Adaptable
Students should be ready to adapt to the international culture and practices such as calling people on a first-name basis even if they are their superiors. Any word that pertains to genders such as Mr. or Miss, age such as kid, or religion such as saying God Bless are avoided. Usually, employees including the heads and owners prefer to be called by their first name or initials. They even avoid being called by their titles such as Dr. or Atty. However, different companies in different countries also have varying preferences. It is always best to ask how they want to be addressed.

4. Time-Conscious
Companies follow a time frame in their tasks. Some even have a Gantt chart. The students should also learn to follow this and not complain if the timelines are short. Again, in the industry, you cannot complain unless there are valid reasons. Also, students should always be ahead at least 5 minutes before the called meeting. Company meetings will start with or without the student. They will not repeat what has been discussed for a latecomer. Tardiness is not tolerated. If for some valid reason the student cannot attend the meeting or perform the task, they should be able to inform the company.

Schools can help their students develop these soft skills by carefully selecting the tasks that will be given to the students and being strict in its implementation such as abiding by the due date set and avoiding extensions unless there is a valid reason, returning poorly prepared output, and giving grades based on a higher standard. Also, schools should treat the students professionally and avoid calling them any words aside from their names. In the professional world, nobody calls their employees “anak.” Moreover, some teachers are lenient to their students and politicizing for them to receive good evaluation reports. Schools should be open-minded in interpreting the qualitative and quantitative ratings. Not all low evaluation means poor teaching performance. Some get a low evaluation because they are strictly implementing policies that will make the students ready to join the industry. All should be in the same direction and share the same stand. Do not let the industry inculcate these skills to the students after graduation. Bridging the gap starts with the academe supported by the industry.

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