Angara: Whole of government approach needed to prepare for the new normal

With a lot of businesses now shifting to the online and digital platforms under the new normal, Senator Sonny Angara called on the different agencies of government to work together in preparing the Filipino workforce for the skills needed to secure these jobs.

A strong advocate of digital skills development for Filipinos, Angara said the global economy is rapidly changing and as a result, a lot of the traditional jobs are disappearing and new jobs are emerging that require, at the very least, some basic technological know-how.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fast tracked the shift of businesses and organizations to online and digital. A lot of Filipinos have lost their jobs due to retrenchments because businesses need to survive and they could no longer afford to operate on a business as usual basis. What was deemed essential before is no longer the case now so everyone of us must adjust to the new normal,” Angara said.

“We need a careers framework that involves education, skills training and support from our government agencies. So the role of agencies such as TESDA, CHEd, DepEd and DICT has become even more important now to prepare our people and to set up the infrastructure needed. DOLE also has a role to play in matching the skills with the jobs available or in demand,” he added.

During a hearing of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, among the bills taken up was Senate Bill 1469 or the proposed National Digital Careers Act filed by Angara, which aims to promote the development of digital careers in the country and equip Filipinos with the skills needed to avail of these jobs.

Angara said digital skills training should not be exclusively for the young people, but should also include senior citizens who are willing and still capable of being productive members of society.

“There are countries like Sweden that are training their senior citizens on digital skills. We have many people who retired early and are still capable of being productive. And the good thing with digital careers is that many of these do not require a full-time commitment. It’s at your pleasure, you work from home, so it’s a very ideal situation for different types of workers such as housewives, senior citizens and people looking for temporary work arrangements,” Angara said.

Under Senate Bill 1469, the DICT, in collaboration with DOLE, DTI, DepEd, CHEd and TESDA will be required to prioritize the creation of digital trainings on various competencies.

The DICT will allocate an appropriate amount of its annual budget for digital skills training and other programs to skill, upskill and re-skill people in order to equip them with the necessary high-level digital skills.

Some of the common digital careers that are sought after are: web development and design; online teaching and tutoring; content creation; digital marketing; mobile app development; search engine optimization; web research, business intelligence and data analytics; transcription and data entry; customer service and technical support; human resource management and systems; and medical coding, billing and other health IT services.

During the hearing, the DICT, as represented by director Emmy Lou Delfin, aired the agency’s strong support to the bill and to Angara for continuously supporting the digital jobs program.

Delfin said the DICT is currently implementing programs under the Digital Philippines banner for the new normal.

The programs are centered on digital education, digital workforce and digital citizen provinces.

The DICT has established a digital ICT academy to provide ICT-related trainings to support the country’s digital workforce. For the upskilling and reskilling of workers, the DICT is working closely with the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines.

Delfin said the DICT will be announcing the top 25 digital cities in the country to encourage BPO investors and locators to set up shop in these areas.

TESDA Deputy Director General Rosanna Urdaneta also pushed for the passage of the bill into law, in recognition of “the need to integrate digital technology in all areas of our lives.”

Urdaneta said TESDA has initiated a workforce skills survey in order to come up with a skills forecasting tool.

She said TESDA will come up with the curricula for the identified courses and skills requirements of the ICT sector.