Bridging the gap 

SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

The unemployment rate as of June 2022 (per last Philippine Statistics Authority release) remains at 6 percent. That’s approximately 2.99 million of the 49.58 million in the labor force. According to the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), we’ve seen a steady growth in working age population: the 15-64 years age group now comprise 63.9 percent of Filipinos.

Conservative estimates have us at 39 million workers for 96 million consumers. POPCOM officially projects the need for another 6 million effective workers to service the short fall.

Senate Majority leader Joel Villanueva, TESDAMAN himself, acknowledges that the country has a good number of people in the workforce, including fresh graduates and retirees. We just need to hone their skills or teach them new ones.

The best public-private partnership. Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual comments that “basic education is supposed to produce graduates who are technologically and technically qualified to work.” But this hasn’t happened as there aren’t enough teachers. The senator and the secretary agree on the answer: the companies should do the training.

Sen. Villanueva would incentivize private sector participation in tech-voc education through enterprise-based training. This helps solve the job-skills mismatch and ensures adequate supply of relevant skill sets.

Sec. Pascual would also promote in our educational system short courses on specific skills, so-called “micro-credentialing.” He also recommends omitting general education courses in college. “College focus should be only on the major subjects and you don’t need to cover a wide range.”

Counterpoint. Specialization is seen to limit the education acquired by students since they are denied the intellectual benefit of a core program focused instruction. Sec. Pascual is now more pragmatic. It was curious to listen to a former president of the University of the Philippines advocating less college education.

This is also the long percolating complaint in the legal academe – the gap between legal education and the profession. Law schools do not adequately prepare students for the challenges and realities of the practice of law. This is one of the main factors feeding its negative reputation.

Doctrinal analysis vs practical skills. Law schools were supposed to teach their students to think as lawyers. The profession would do the rest. Graduates would apprentice at the elbow of an experienced lawyer. Just like Sen. Villanueva has been advocating in proposals to strengthen tech-voc education: incorporating apprenticeship and dual training systems and giving continuous skills enhancement to the unemployed.

Because of modernization and globalization, the mismatch has widened even more. We have more lawyers now and, hence, the necessity to find your own niche. The cost of legal services has trebled. Plus, the growing complexity of law compels even greater specialization.

The events of this month, alone, provide a snapshot of competencies needed. Briefly, the legal frameworks on: the TV5-ABSCBN2 agreement – business organizations, competition, telecommunications (also the DITO vs Globe and Smart disputes); the sugar importation controversy – customs and crime; Bgy/SK postponement – elections; Sen. Robin Padilla’s advocacy on change – constitutional law; problematic PS-DBM transactions – government procurement and e-commerce; the pandemic – health.

Increasingly, the abogado style general law practitioner who hangs his shingle outside his home to service community needs is becoming antiquated.

Thus, higher education is under pressure to reexamine the script. The desired goal is to guarantee earlier expertise and productivity. Even if the price be a more materialistic and less rounded worldview.

A little bit dizzy, a little bit scared. Like over half the country, I watched the viral video of the President’s serenade to the First Lady. Good song choice, Sir. Not many high notes. Never let her slip away is a staple of the “baby boomer” generation. Fellow boomers are only too pleased to share one of our comfort songs with the Xs and Zs.

After a long day in Malacañang, attempting the soaring notes of maybe a Freddie Mercury song would have been an effort. But, don’t look now. Mr. Mercury, legendary front man of Queen, did an uncredited background vocal on Never let her slip away. As an aside, song composer Andrew Gold is also known for writing Thank you for being a friend. This is the theme of one of my mom’s favorite television series, Golden Girls.

Teatro Malacañang. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s performance is just the latest of the presidential acts. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not just an Ikaw one trick pony. He was doing Michel Legrand at one of the SONAs. President Benigno C. Aquino III was not averse to letting loose as Freddie Aguilar’s Estudyante Blues capped his inaugural after party. Of course, the best was president Joseph E. Estrada. Reliably, he had an entire classic and kundiman repertoire which he’d cap with his own immortal Kahit na Magtiis that he co-wrote with Ernani Cuenco. President Fidel V. Ramos taking to the mike was also not unheard of.

Our lady presidents, Corazon C. Aquino and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, saved their public singing voices for mass. Definitely not as game as President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was truly the crooner. With his luminous bride, their signature song was the timeless Sampaguita Pictures original Dahil Sa Iyo (by Sampaguita musical director Mike Velarde, purposely written for the movie of Rogelio de la Rosa and Carmen Rosales).

PBBM, of course, can also play a mean saxophone. Pop culture jostles for space in his head with the classical art and music education of his youth. He has an avowed admiration for Billy Joel and his discography. For movies, it was Star Wars as declared in early campaigns. Lately, we learned that he and the family do find time for the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe offerings. Didn’t Ant Man figure in their eureka moment?

The odd song or two may be all he has time to do these days. The President is a workaholic and there is a lot on his plate. It is interesting to see how he mines the wisdom of Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile and other senior advisers to gather useful insights before he makes the presidential decisions that are entirely his own.

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