YESTERDAY, I came across an article from Reuters written by Nick Ziemenski titled "Lack of skilled workers threatens recovery: Manpower". The article was based on a global study conducted by New York Stock Exchange-listed Manpower Inc. Results of the study were published just yesterday.

According to its website, the company is a world leader in innovative workforce solutions which boasts of over 60 years' experience in employee recruitment and placement. It has nearly 4,000 offices world-wide and caters to 400,000 clients annually from a broad spectrum of industries.

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The shortfall in skilled workers is an obstacle to global economic recovery, particularly for many large economies, Manpower's research paper states.

Among the workers with specialized skills which are in short supply are welders, electricians and carpenters. These skilled trades also include jobs like bricklayers, cabinet makers, plumbers and butchers.

Manpower's survey of 35,000 employers reveals that, in six out of the ten biggest economies in the world, the lack of skilled workers ranks either No. 1 or No. 2 among their hiring problems. The survey also shows that skilled trades top the list of worker shortages in 10 out of 17 European countries.

Majority of survey respondents in Poland, Singapore, Argentina and Brazil reported shortages but, among the 36 countries and territories covered by the study, Japan stands out as having the biggest skilled workers shortage problem.

Seventy-six percent of Japanese respondents admitted that they had difficulties finding the right workers.

The global staffing company conducts an annual talent shortage survey. In its fifth annual survey, Manpower discovered that almost one-third (31%) of employers worldwide 'are having difficulty filling positions due to the lack of suitable workers available in their markets, up one percentage point over last year'.

"It becomes a real choke-point in future economic growth. We believe strongly this is really an issue in the labor market," said Jeff Joerres, chief executive of Manpower.

Skilled work is usually specific to a given location: the work cannot move, so the workers have to, Manpower pointed out. The company added that 'employers, governments and trade groups need to collaborate on strategic migration policies that can alleviate such worker shortages'.

While the short-term way to address to shortages is to embrace migration, the long-term solution is to change attitudes toward skilled trades, Manpower argues.

However, attitude change does not come overnight. Almost half a century of the so-called 'knowledge economy' has ingrained in the youth's minds that a college degree is the ticket to a better life. Blue collar jobs are for those who do not have the intellectual aptitude to earn a college degree, so claimed advocates of the "college diploma = better life" belief.

This reality is reflected in another survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development which disclosed that only one out of ten Americal teenagers see themselves as blue-collar workers by age 30. In Japan, the percentage is even lower.

If a similar survey is conducted in the Philippines, it will not be surprising to find a similar result. Blue collar jobs are still being frowned upon and considered as being below the accepted social level.

Thus, high school graduates more often than not badger their parents to send them to college to study a four-year course. Their classmates might look down at them if they pursue just a vocational or technical course.

After their parents spent P300,000 (That's a conservative estimate!) for their children's four-year education, the graduates end up working as merchandisers and sales clerks in department stores and malls for a net pay of less than P200 a day.

That's the tragedy! After spending a fortune on a college diploma, the graduates find themselves groping for jobs. Only a few are fortunate enough to secure employment which is in line with the course they studied for. The rest of the herd have to settle for any available job, however menial those jobs may be.

The past administration realized this predicament and, in response, encouraged technical and vocational skills training by launching the PGMA scholarships under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

PGMA and Boboy Syjuco had the right idea but the program was somehow tainted with negative perceptions associated with PGMA. The primetime broadcast on national TV of Boboy Syjuco's song and dance production prior to the May elections didn't help restore people's faith on the program's sincerity.

True enough, the allocation of the scholarships thru the congressmen who, in turn, coursed them thru the mayors who also coursed them thru the barangay captains revealed the program's true color.

Nevertheless, it can not be denied that thousands of Filipinos benefited from the program. Some of them have already gained employment abroad. Billions of pesos, though, are still owed by the government to educational institutions who conducted the training. But that's another story.

Skills training is the most effective intervention in poverty alleviation. There is a demand for skilled labor. The country has the manpower. Government and the private sector have the expertise to train the existing manpower to suit the needs of the labor market.

By converting our able bodies into skilled workers and help fill the need of the global labor market, we can help boost our economy.

Let us bring back the TESDA scholarships. Hopefully, under PNoy's administration, the program implementation will be purged of politics and selfish interests.

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