PUERTO PRINCESA -- Fifteen students from conflict-affected areas in Mindanao are being provided with financial support to enable them to complete college degrees in mining engineering.

The group includes two women who, once they pass the licensure examination, will be among the first Mindanao Muslim women mining engineers in the Philippines.

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“This scholarship will give me the chance to have a good career in a growing industry, and in my home region,” said Musarapa Insiang, who grew up in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

The financial support is provided through the Investments in Vocational/Elementary/Secondary and Tertiary Studies (Invests) project being implemented by USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program.

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Twenty students hold up their school supplies acquired with the help of their Parent-Teacher Association and USAid’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program through GEM’s Invests project. (Contributed photo)

Through Invests, the GEM Program is helping to provide selected students -- all of whom are all from under-represented communities in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao – with the qualifications to secure professional employment in selected rapidly expanding industry subsectors, such as computer-based animation and mining.

The INVESTS mining students are enrolled in Palawan State University, the University of the Philippines in Diliman and the Cebu Institute of Technology, nine of whose graduates were among the top 10 performers in the 2008 government licensure examinations for mining engineers.

“We are taking courses in environmental science and mining law, in addition to mineralogy and principles of mining,” said Haiza Pigkaulan, a scholar from Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, now studying in Palawan State University.

She said there are mining operations in her community and she wants to work in Mindanao rather than abroad to an environmentally-responsible company.

Mining is a relatively unknown academic field in the Philippines and the few colleges that offer the subject produce approximately two dozen licensed mining engineers annually, while the rapidly expanding industry requires at least a hundred per year.

Computer-based animation is yet another growing industry, one that annually creates approximately 20,000 well-paying jobs.

The GEM Program is working with Ateneo de Zamboanga University to support students interested in studying within this field.

Additional lucrative employment opportunities abound in the areas of cell phone software programming -- which has a current demand for 25,000 employees -- and in underwater and other specialized welding due to the planned expansion of shipbuilding and repair facilities in the country. (PR)