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TESDA online courses: How to survive COVID pandemic

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2021 - 12:00am

The lockdowns imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country have prompted over a million Filipinos to acquire new skill sets that served them well during these difficult times. While face-to-face classes remain suspended, many Filipinos enrolled in the online training courses, or electronic or “e-learning,” at the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

While enrollment in formal education institutions suffered a decline, TESDA director general Isidro Lapeña welcomed the surge of enrollees for their skills training courses since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in March last year. In fact, Lapeña disclosed, the TESDA enrollment reached a total of 1.6 million applicants for their various online skills training courses.

Recognizing TESDA as a key employment-driver, President Rodrigo Duterte designated Lapeña as co-chairman of the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS) created last May 1 this year. The TESDA was tasked to lead in re-tooling and upskilling all Filipino workers with the projected “herd immunity” by the second half of this year to push the country’s economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. TESDA is also among agencies under the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

From TESDA record, the bulk of enrollees on various skills training courses were mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who either returned home, or were repatriated following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lapeña cited. Returning home from COVID-impacted countries also, many of these OFWs found themselves jobless and financially displaced by the pandemic. Thus, the agency launched in June last year: “TESDA Abot Kamay Lahat ang OFWs.”

Lapeña advised them to go to TESDA’s own “Malasakit Help” OFW desks once they arrive at the airports as a lifeline to help them get back to their feet. Or they can enrol at any “Malasakit Help” centers in the provinces and regional offices of TESDA, he pointed out, to acquire new skills sets. Once they finish the course, TESDA hands out “certificate of completion” they can show to apply for new jobs here in the Philippines, or put up their “alternative” livelihood as added income source.

“And more than a million of them (TESDA graduates) completed the courses they enrolled,” Lapeña told us in our weekly “Kapihan sa Manila Bay” virtual news forum last Wednesday. Being offered for free, Lapeña revealed, there were even celebrities who availed of TESDA’s online skills training program. He, however, did not identify the “celebrities” who enrolled in TESDA’s e-learning courses.

In fact, Lapeña proudly mentioned, TESDA has recorded 85 percent employment rate among its graduates. And TESDA, he added, can also opt for ladderized diploma program which allows them to earn them a college degree later on.

Joining us in our conversations at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay was TESDA deputy director-general Lina Sarmiento who noted that courses on housekeeping, bread and pastry, food processing and cooking are among the most popular TESDA online courses. Most of their enrollees in agriculture skills training, Sarmiento added, are mostly interested on the backyard gardening program where, among other things, they learn how to concoct and use organic fertilizer.

A self-confessed “plantita,” or being actively engaged in such backyard gardening, Sarmiento expressed satisfaction that many of their enrollees are now engaged in raising and selling garden plants.

According to Lapeña, TESDA gave priority training courses on agriculture and construction after the pandemic struck. “TESDA played an important role in ensuring food sufficiency at this time of the pandemic. We provided training on backyard gardening at doon na kumuha ang mga graduates ng sariling pagkain di na kailangan lumabas,” he pointed out. For construction courses, TESDA produce the skilled labor force needed by the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

At TESDA training centers, Lapeña offered the public to enrol in their dressmaking courses. By providing the materials to students, it enabled TESDA to produce face masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) distributed to government frontline workers at hospitals even to policemen. There is also great interest to pursue skills training on information technology (I.T.) while forced to stay at their homes, especially during lockdown period, he disclosed.

Like the rest of other educational institutions, Lapeña clarified, the 184 TESDA skills training centers all over the country must comply with the existing community quarantine classifications in the particular local governments units (LGUs).

Curiously, the number one on the top ten online courses taken up by OFWs in TESDA is a course on “Practising COVID-19 Preventive Measures in the Workplace.” Actually, Lapeña described it as a “self-paced” short-term course where one can just open it from the internet and can put it on pause, then return to it without losing your credit on the course. But one must pass the test it at the end of the course to get a “certificate of completion” from TESDA, he warned.

“It’s no joke but I flunked that test the first time I took it,” Lapeña cheerfully admitted.

Going to the hinterlands and other far-flung islands in the country to promote the various skills training courses of TESDA, Sarmiento got tested positive for COVID-19 infection, not just once but thrice already. Fortunately, she was just asymptomatic.

Both retired police generals, Lapeña and Sarmiento used to work together as superior and subordinate while still active in service in the Philippine National Police (PNP). After Lapeña retired, the much younger Sarmiento rose through the ranks and became the country’s first-ever woman police general.

Back again as a team, they steer TESDA in meeting the challenges, especially offering online courses on how to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 TESDA
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