SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Government agencies here are now working closely with the education sector and local business locators to harmonize efforts at closing the mismatch between available jobs and available manpower in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and nearby communities.
Some 1,200 officials from government and private sectors, as well as educators and students, gathered at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) here last week for the Annual Labor Congress organized by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to tackle the issue of labor gaps.
Among the attendees were representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE),
Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Public Employment Service Office (PESO), and local government units (LGUs).
SBMA Labor Department manager Severo Pastor Jr. explained that the one-day congress serves as venue to address employment issues, help students choose the right academic or technical course to take in college, and assist the education sector to determine what relevant courses or skills training they should offer.
“Most often, students enrolled in courses that are not suitable for jobs offered by investors in the Freeport, or that courses that would likely get more employment offers were not offered in schools,” Pastor noted.
As both these case result in employment gaps, Pastor said the academe should take necessary actions to address the skills-employment mismatch by offering courses relevant to the skills needed in the locality, particularly by Subic investor-companies.
“There should be a continuous flow of skilled or professional workers needed by investors in the Subic Freeport, so that we can sustain the local economy,” he also said.
SBMA records indicate that there are now a total of 1,587 business locators in the Subic Freeport, with more than 134,000 workers employed.
Meanwhile, Dir. Ben-Hur Baniqued Jr., head of TESDA- Zambales, revealed that as of October 2017, there are 7.8 million workers available in Region III. However, unemployment in the region is at 76%, which is way higher than the national average, he added.
“Underemployment (in the region) is tremendous,” Baniqued remarked. He said that while the government is considering Central Luzon as an alternative hub to decongesting Metro Manila, the industries, especially investors in the Subic Freeport, must help the academic sector by providing free training to students through on-the-job programs to further develop the local workforce.
At present, Baniqued said, there are about 430 private institutions in Region III that provide more than 2,000 Technical-Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programs for aspiring job applicants.
In the same forum, SBMA Deputy Administrator for Business and Investment Kenneth Rementilla painted a rosy picture for job generation in the Subic Bay Freeport, pointing out that the SBMA has been actively promoting business in Subic through investment missions abroad.
He added that the Subic agency has been hugely successful in drawing new investments, mostly in manufacturing, as well as leisure and tourism sectors.
Rementilla also said that because the Subic Bay Freeport is largely located within the fenced-in portion of the former US military facility here, the SBMA is now looking into expansion schemes to address the shortage of land area for further business development and to create more jobs for local workers.