German precision + Filipino passion

(The Philippine Star) - December 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Alejandro Nayga has always loved cars, and this passion served him well when he became an assistant to a small-town mechanic. It seemed entirely possible that his life would be spent in that small shop, until he made the decision to move to Manila, where he chanced upon the opportunity of a lifetime.

Today, Nayga, only 24, begins each workday surrounded by a fleet of multimillion-peso luxury cars. But he isn’t just admiring them; this bright young man possesses intimate knowledge about each of the vehicles, as he selects his tools and fine tunes the work done by expert German engineers.   

When he first came to Manila, Nayga worked as a janitor. “Now, because of our superior training, there is a strong demand for us among Porsche International Service Centers,” he says in Filipino with justifiable pride.

Nayga is just one of a growing group of remarkable technical specialists emerging from the Porsche Training and Recruitment Centre Asia (PTRCA). Born of a partnership between PGA Cars, Inc. and the Don Bosco Manpower Skills Training Center, the PTRCA has since become an institution where underprivileged youths become expert “mechatronics” who understand the inner workings of a Porsche like few ever will. More importantly, they often end up as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) – juvenile breadwinners supporting their families with an adult set of skills and the corresponding income – as they are recruited to work in Porsche dealers overseas.

Many of the candidates at PTRCA come from modest roots and reduced circumstances. Yet their humble beginnings have not hindered them from rising to the challenge and mastering their intense training, a testament to the untapped potential of the Filipino.

Madel Bejerano, for instance, was initially told that the PTRCA did not accept women. Undaunted, she broke into this male-dominated field and graduated in the second batch of the PTRCA. Forging through the many difficulties of handling precision sports cars and being the sole female PTRCA candidate, Madel has been able to help her ailing father and send her younger brother through the PTRCA program as well. At present, she works as a warranty administrator at Porsche Philippines, and is ably assisted by her brother as the family breadwinners.

Arnell Magpantay, the top graduate of the PTRCA’s first batch, is the son of a tricycle driver. Without the program, he says, he imagines that he would have never have been able to provide for his family, let alone build them a house. Today, he is one of the few silver level technicians of Porsche Philippines, having been sent to other Porsche facilities across Asia for training. He hopes to one day become a gold level technician and mentor young scholars who remind him of who he used to be.

“Given the opportunity to rise above their situation, these students soar,” explained PGA Cars, Inc. chairman Robert Coyiuto Jr., who conceptualized the PTRCA program. By his own admission, it was a case of turning an erstwhile predicament into a win-win situation: Back in 2006, Porsche Center Philippines was losing many of its professional technicians to dealers from the Middle East. Well aware of the quick learning curve and inborn skill of the Filipino, Coyiuto saw an opportunity for a life-changing endeavor.

The program candidates start out with a ten-month education at the Don Bosco Technical Institute, where they build a solid foundation of theory and practical work. The best and the brightest then move on to nine months of the PTRCA program, where they are trained under Porsche’s top experts in the field of luxury car maintenance and repair.

The PTRCA is the first and only training center of its kind outside Germany, prizing the quality and proficiency of its graduates above all else. In addition to their instructors’ vast technical knowledge, the students likewise have the advantage of working with the latest and most highly specialized equipment ranging from diagnostic computers to hand-held instruments, and all the latest car models. In order to round out their education, the center also provides modules for English fluency and integration into foreign working environments.

The institution has developed and refined itself to the point where apprentices from Porsche Germany itself are flown into the country to undergo PTRCA training for six months, before returning to finish their traineeship.

Undeniably, there is a long-standing stigma attached to vocational education courses, the popular opinion being that its graduates are relegated to blue-collar, lower income work. In a head-to-head comparison, however, the lucrative opportunities available for PTRCA alumni in and out of the country often surpass those with Bachelor’s degrees.

Given the country’s 7.3 percent unemployment rate (a large fraction comprising youths 15-24 years old) and the state of underemployment many college graduates end up in, the PTRCA offers something truly substantial. The young technicians who uphold the famed excellence of the brand they represent can begin charting a better future for themselves and for their families.

Recently, the program celebrated its fifth anniversary, which culminated with a commencement ceremony for 16 of its latest graduates. Nayga stood with his fellow graduates, beaming with quiet pride. The country’s top officials joined representatives from international Porsche branches to witness and to celebrate the beginning of their success stories.

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