Solon flags need to assess job skills that PHL needs


AN economist-lawmaker on Wednesday said the government should figure out now what kind of job skills does the Philippine economy need to thrive.

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda made the statement after the Commission on Human Rights reported that “new graduates tend to lack soft skills.”

“The observation is consistent with global studies which indicate that learning did suffer as a result of being forced to isolate and study without the company of peers,” said Salceda.

“I wouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion, however, that the lack of ‘soft skills’ is primarily the source of youth unemployment,” he added.

In its report, the CHR said new graduates experience culture shock upon entering the workplace because their expectations differ from what they were taught at school and some fail to adjust to their work and decide to resign but have a hard time being hired again.

The CHR added that employer participants commented that their company is particular on the soft skills of fresh graduates during their recruitment process, making them undergo a behavioral exam.

“These issues are heightened and even augmented by the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic…,” it said.

The CHR added that new graduates are highly vulnerable to scams and fake job postings and also lack job readiness.

Moreover, Salceda said the case for a soft skills deficit can be made for the loss of managers, despite economic conditions and firm structure.

“But the loss of jobs in skilled professions is a clear and undeniable problem of hard skills,” he added. “Soft skills” itself as a class of skills requires certain hard skills,” the lawmaker said.

“In my conversations with the BPO sector, one key skill issue is that while Filipino BPO workers, particularly in the voice sector, are very courteous and respectful, some of them lack the technical competence to efficiently solve the customer’s problem,” he added.

Salceda cited other soft skills, “such as leadership, depend on technical proficiency and competence, too.”

“Certain soft skills are also essential, especially those relevant in entrepreneurship and innovation,” the economist-lawmaker added.

Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) labor data on professions, Salceda said it appears that hard skills suffered just as much, if not more, during the pandemic.

“The issue of finding it hard to land jobs exists in the context of elevated inflation. Food, fuel, and power are expensive—so we need to keep their prices low to keep wages competitive. That is the best way to produce enough jobs to hire new entrants to our workforce,” he said.  “But the job figures seem to indicate a problem of hard skills, as well,” he added.

According to Salceda, almost all professions increased in number of employed persons year-on-year from February 2022 to February 2023, except the managers, skilled agriculture, forestry, and fisheries and crafts, trades, and related workers.

“Now, there is no debate about whether we should prioritize soft skills over hard skills. What we should instead do is to figure out what kind of skills, in general, does our economy need to thrive and be resilient,” he said.

“Certain skills are obviously more relevant: language proficiency, particularly in English, engineering, the computer sciences, and increasingly, medical sciences—especially in an ageing world,” he added.

On the job hunt, Salceda said the country must accept that the world is moving from individuals looking for jobs to individuals creating those jobs themselves.

“India, which produces 15 million engineers every year, has the most tech startups in the world—a case of engineers creating their own jobs,” he added.