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Opinion

Where to, workforce?

Chit U. Juan - The Philippine Star

If we were still of that age, where droves of students write up their CVs and send out resumés, we would be very worried. One, where do you apply for work? In my younger days schools would send your names to prospective employers (like hotels as I took HRA) and luckily you may land a job quite easily.

These days, the young are scared to get sick, work in a real office where they may get the virus and instead may look for work online as virtual assistants, artists or writers.

For the past 16 months I have hired people for their talent, not for their educational background. We work virtually and I do not even ask from where or when they graduated. Mostly, referrals work – from friends who know exactly the service or work assistance I need – tech, artists, writers and even social media teams.

So where do our K-12 graduates go to seek employment?

The indoor office

Online seems to be the answer.

• It is safe. You need not go to a physical office but can get paid just the same.

• It is practical. You need no uniforms or lunchboxes.

• It is rewarding. People pay virtual assistants and employees who render service albeit virtually.

What about those who wish to work in QSRs (fast food places), coffee shops and other food establishments? I am afraid that would be increased exposure to the elements.

Like water seeking its own level, the workforce, especially the younger new graduates of K-12 or those who even are in the middle of school, will tend to look at employment that’s safer and more practical. More people will want to work from home, learn new skills that can make them employable, such as training from TESDA and other TECH-VOC institutions. TESDA can teach you baking, welding and even painting – skills which can make you employable in safer spaces.

The outdoor office

The other opportunity is in wide open spaces like farms and gardens. The young can go to the K-12 senior track of Organic Agriculture, Farming and other skills that bring you to safer open air spaces for work or employment. K-12 has an organic agriculture track and the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) has courses in just about anything related to growing food.

This development is going to make the youth go into agriculture or farming, rather than cruise ships and hotels or restaurants. The young may choose their environment but both are and would be safer than having to commute to the city, looking for a crowded boarding house and eating bad food.

Our youth must be redirected to think “new normal.” There is wisdom in seeking safer places while being of use in society as a gainfully-employed teen – which is the objective of K-12. It is unfortunate that many employers and parents still have not appreciated the merits of the program, which of course got eclipsed when college education was recently given for free. However, college may not be the best path to employment in this new age. The key is practicality and safety. Where are you best placed? Indoors or online – or outdoors in an open air al fresco environment like gardens and farms?

What are the skills you need to add to your K-12?

• Online skills are in demand. Coding, STEM, social media marketing, SEO, SEM.

• Practical skills in agriculture or agri-business. This is the new business idea.

• Specialty art – painters, graphic artists, etc.

• Writing – master Pilipino or English writing and be a writer or virtual assistant.

There is life after lockdown. There are careers after online classes. But we need to look elsewhere and look away from traditional jobs.

This is the new reality for our youth. Even college education may not be the best way forward.

And to our legislators and Department of Education, please coordinate and think of how the K-12 program can be optimized. When we said K-12 graduates could get employed right away, did we tell employers how to employ them?

Maybe employers need a briefing or two on the K-12 program. And a change in mindset may soon be coming to Human Resource practitioners, if their boss or CEO says so. Just like how we explained CSR at the turn of the millennium, it needs the CEO to be apprised of the merits of hiring just graduated K-12 teens. Or change the employment policies of big business so the youth can find their rightful place to be useful in society.

Otherwise, K-12 may just end up producing more tambays, adding to the unemployed statistics and a disillusioned next generation.

If you are a CEO or an HR practitioner, when was the last time you hired a newbie that finished 12th grade? If we must keep the youth busy and productive, we must change the way we formulate and enforce hiring policies in our companies.

At the next job interview, we must give the 12th grade graduate a chance. And maybe hone him or her into a most useful member of the next generation of leaders. Our country will be ruled by the young and to keep the young fearless, versatile and hungry must be the way to do it.

WORK
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