The labors of labor

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

EVEN as the country experiences an economic boom, opportunities remain scarce for some job seekers -- an irony that sets no exemption especially among the fresh graduates.

A consolidated report on labor market JobsFit 2013 showed that Davao Region has maintained an uptrend employment generation forecast with a total of 1.392 millions of jobs for this year in five key industries.

The report, conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) 11, cited agriculture as the highest employment generator with 672,100 jobs in 2014.

The wholesale and retail/ repair of motorcycles comes the second highest with 379,230 jobs; followed by transportation, storage, and communication with 135,430 jobs; manufacturing with 119,230 jobs; and construction with 86,880 jobs.

The report, citing a study called "Regional and Social Economic Trends for Davao Region" by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) 11, said these industries will continue to generate more job opportunities until 2016, keeping an annual growth rate of 4.91 percent.

"Region 11 is a primarily an agriculture area and most of its jobs are agri-related," it said.

With the recent weather disturbances that ripped through the region plus the Panama disease that hit several hectares of banana plantations, agriculture however shows the slowest annual growth rate at 0.73 percent as compared to other industries.

"This might be explained by various factors such as conversions of land from agriculture to industrial or residential, and the natural calamities that hit the region in the recent months," it explained.

The fastest, meanwhile, is the manufacturing industry at 9.68 percent, following an increase in the number of players who provide more jobs to the labor force in the region.

The growth in manufacturing sees a rippling effect to other industries that can possibly stir an economic development.

Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) 11 assistant regional director Venerando Cebrano previously said he wants more manufacturing companies to invest in the region, as their exodus will translate to more jobs created.

"Sabi nila mas mataas ang economy pagka marami ang nagma-manufacture. That's one good theory. So, if a region is into manufacturing, then it's a good region," he said.

In previous JobsFit released in 2010, there were only about 92,000 jobs in manufacturing, which jumped to 115,500 jobs in 2013.

Given its high requirement for jobs, it goes to show that it can boost the region's workforce while the other industries can benefit in the process as a result of these companies' operations.

Wholesale and retail has emerged the second highest at 9.45 percent, as evident on the number of malls and retail-related businesses that are opening in Davao City and other key areas in the region like Digos, Tagum, and Panabo.

Construction performs the third fastest employment generator at 8.25 percent annual growth, which is also poised to be the next biggest employment generator in the region.

"The suppliers of skilled workers deemed the construction business could become a leading industry for a bullish employment in the region," JobsFit 2013 reported.

The region's transportation, storage, and communication has a 7.20 percent annual growth rate.

Although the forecast sees agriculture's slower growth to last until 2016, the expansions of many investors in agri-business to Compostella and Davao del Norte will support the industry.

Lack of graduates

While agriculture has the highest demand for workforce, JobsFit 2013, citing a report from Commission on Higher Education (Ched), said agri-related courses seem to be less appealing to students, recording only 105 graduates of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, the lowest among the 34 college courses offered from the period 2008 to 2013.

BS Nursing has the most number of graduates with 18,813 recorded from 2008 to 2013.

However, based on the labor market report, health-related jobs are not among the top five key employment generators in the region, not even in the top 10.

According to Dole 11 forecast, health and social work-related jobs is only seen to reach 24,180 this year, far lower as compared to other industries that can generate more jobs by many fold until 2016.

"Among the common reasons cited why agriculture vacancies are hard-to-fil or in-demand included the lack of or no interest to work in the areas of agri-industry... Agriculture courses are said to be unattractive to students," it said.

BS Commerce has the second most number of graduates with 6,823; BS Secondary Education with 5,066 graduates; BS Elementary Education with 4,273 graduates; BS Criminology with 3,251 graduates from 2008 to 2013.

Issues and Challenges

The five key industries share almost the same challenges and issues when it comes to hiring new applicants. Employers are faced with problems such as technical competence, relevant experiences and trainings, right attitude, communication skills in oral and written, and professionalism of prospect workers plunging into the talent pool.

Dole 11 director Joffrey Suyao added many of talents either don't have the skills, or they may have but not enough to meet what the companies need.

Employment rate: Rises, falls

According to NSO Labor Force Survey, Davao Region's employment rate stood at 94.6 percent in 2011, and then it inched up to 95.2 percent in October 2012. But, it went down to 93.4 percent in October 2013.

Last December 2012, Typhoon Pablo hit the region, afffecting several businesses especially those in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. Several weather disturbances also landed in Mindanao months after the onslaught of Pablo.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate in 2011 was noted at 16.5 percent; 16.1 percent in October 2012; and 14.9 percent in October 2013.

In Dole parlance, underemployment rate is defined as the number of employees who are unsatisfied with their current jobs, or have jobs that require lower skills than what they have.

Outsourcing: Rising industry

JobsFit 2013 also listed the immense growth of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in Davao City as a potential major employment generator.

Among the issues and challenges that this relatively young industry is faced with is the lack of training institutions in the region that can harness the skills of the potential talents.

Among the in-demand jobs in this industry are visual artist designer, sales representatives, and programmers while the hard-to-fill vancies are programmers, computer artist, technical support administrator, animator, and video editor.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) executive vice president Bert Barriga said the city is experiencing a tremendous growth since it began over a decade ago.

From few hundreds employed in BPO before, the number of workers employed is now numbering around 21,000.

ICT Council is looking at hitting its target of around 30,000 full-time employees by next year.

"We've been experiencing more growth in Davao, not only for voice sector. We're expecting more of the non-voice, animation, software development, data entry, and other new facets we're looking at," he said.

For his part, Lane Systems Inc. managing director Rodney Jao said what he is looking for in applicants is the discipline that graduates have learned in the academe.

"The challenge of the graduates from many schools is that they will not have the skills that we require... (But) what is important to me when you apply is not your expertise on a specific programming language but it's your ability to adopt to whatever is new. They should know the discipline," he said.

Lane Systems Inc. is one of the IT players based in Davao City specializing on software development.

Labor Day Job Fair

To provide a venue where the talent pool and the employers can meet, Dole 11 conducted an annual job fair, the biggest was the Labor Day Job Fair, which opened on May 1 at the Gaisano Mall of Davao, Gaisano Mall of Tagum, and SM City Davao where a total of 29,356 vacancies were offered.

Of the number, 7,986 jobs were local while 21,370 jobs were overseas.

There were also a total of 228 participating companies in the job fairs, 161 of them were local and 67 were overseas.

In a report, there were 10,479 jobs applicants registered in all three venues, 1,276 of whom were hired on the spot (Hots).

Of the total Hots, 931 applicants landed for local employment while the other 345 for overseas.

In a report earlier, Suyao said the employment rate will usually increase starting from end of April towards early May, as more graduates will be joining the labor force.

The labor official said they are in constant talks with the academe to review their existing course curricula in order to produce the graduates who are equipped with ready skills to join the labor force.

Students are also encouraged to avail themselves of the scholarships offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), as vocational courses are also being considered as one of the solutions other than the highly-skilled jobs to meet what most of the companies demand of the supply side.

"We talk to our training education sector: DepEd, Ched, and Tesda. Sinasabihan natin sila na ito yung kailangan ng industries, why don't you supply these skills. Ito yung demand," he said.

In a labor environment like what Davao has, Tesda courses are in place to bridge the gap between the supply and the demand side.

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