Free tech-voc education seen as better alternative if Duterte vetoes free college tuition bill

Senator Joel Villanueva, vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, pushed for the passage of free technical-vocational education which, he said, is a viable alternative if the Free Higher Education Act will be vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Villanueva filed Senate Bill No. 1431 or the Tulong Trabaho Act of 2017 which seeks to narrow the gap of unemployment in the country by providing free tech-voc training to the poor and unemployed Filipinos and skills upgrading to currently employed individuals through the Tulong-Trabaho Fund.

According to Villanueva's bill, the Tulong-Trabaho Fund shall be included in the General Appropriations Act and shall be used to pay the fees of qualified recipients in Selected Training Programs (STPs). The said Fund shall be managed by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) .

"For years, tech-voc has proven to be a viable option especially for those who want immediate employment. In fact, 7 out of 10 tech-voc graduates easily find decent jobs due to the high demand of skilled workers here and abroad," Villanueva said.

In 2014, TESDA recorded 1,785,679 graduates. The number increased to 2,151,236 tech-voc graduates in 2016.

When it comes to the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, the employment rate of tech-voc graduates is at 70.9% while the graduates of electronics and semiconductor program recorded an employment rate of 96.64%.

Villanueva believes that poor students choose to take tech-voc courses because they cannot afford to finance college education expenses such as tuition, the cost of living allowance and other outstanding school fees such as library, laboratory, athletics, and miscellaneous fees.

Villanueva shared that enrolling in a Barista course, for instance, in a TESDA-accredited institution only costs P6,800 which already includes the fees for the use of equipment and ingredients, and the assessment fee. Also, a trainee will only take around 5 weeks to finish the said course.

The Free Tech-Voc bill has already been passed by the Senate on third and final reading. The bill, which seeks to establish a Tulong-Trabaho Fund, also has the possibility of providing additional financial assistance such as transportation allowance, laboratory fees and starter toolkits.

Moreover, the bill promises to address job-skills mismatch by establishing a Philippine Labor Force Competencies Competitiveness Program that is based on Labor Market Intelligence Reports.

"Through this proposal, the needed skills in the market are determined and addressed through skills training. This, in turn, will help reduce jobs-skills mismatch," Villanueva said.

Recently, the administration's economic managers said the government cannot afford to subsidize tuition in state universities and colleges (SUCs) which is estimated at P100 billion per year.

They also confirmed that the proposed 2018 budget amounting to P3.767 trillion won't include the allocation for free tuition in SUCs.

According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, the free college tuition bill "will have very little impact on poor families for enrollment in college."

Pernia also cited government data showing that only 12 percent of the poor enroll in college and that tuition covers only one third of the total expenses a college student has to shoulder.

"We recognize that tuition fee is just 1/3 of the expenses a student has to shoulder for his tertiary education but we believe that if the government makes it free for students, more poor families would be encouraged and be able to enroll their children in college," said Villanueva, one of the authors of the Free Higher Education Act. "If the Free College Tuition bill won't get a nod this year, we ultimately hope that our bill which seeks to provide Free Tech-Voc through a Tulong-Trabaho Fund would be given a chance to provide hopes for students who cannot afford tertiary education but are interested to acquire skills and gain employment immediately after they graduate. For it to become a law, we thereby urge our counterpart in the Lower House to immediately pass a similar measure," Villanueva concluded.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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