Good grades and great ideas can land jobs for new grads

By Maria Althea Teves, | 04/18/2009 12:25 AM


Are the new Filipino graduates really unemployable?

The latest labor force survey by the National Statistics Office shows that most of the 2,885,000 unemployed Filipinos are new graduates.

Age Group of Unemployed Persons Percentage
15-24 49.2
25-34 30.3
35-44 9.6
45-54 6.7
55-64 3.5
65 and over 0.7
Total 100

 * Source: National Statistics Office, January 2009 Labor Force Survey

“The biggest unemployment numbers are the age bracket of 15-24, which are the graduates. Indeed, we are graduating people who can’t find jobs,” said Vicente Kilayko, Chairman of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) Academe-Industry Collaboration Committee. Kilayko is also director of an outplacement and career management consultancy company – Drake Beam Morin Philippines, Inc.

Kilayko said that PMAP believes unemployment is not only the result of the mismatch between jobs available to applicants and their technical skills, but also because the new graduates lack “behavioral competencies,” referring to their personal traits and qualities.

“We believe that past behaviors could determine future success,” said Teresa Miclat, human resource specialist for talent and organizational development of Fuller Life, a direct selling company. Miclat said they hire new graduates who have not found a career path for themselves yet.

Kilayko said that companies who look for new recruits find that some applicants’ traits do not match what companies need.

“It is not automatic that if you graduated from a course that is in demand, you will get hired; you may not get the job,” Kilayko said.

Kilayko said that aside from technical know-how, to be “employable” you would need to have the following:

1) Initiative: The applicant is willing to solve problems without waiting for anyone to tell him what to do.

2) Critical thinking: The applicant’s ability to think through a problem and analyzing a way to solve it.

3) Good communication skills: The applicant’s ability to organize his thoughts and present them in an understandable manner, and not just his ability to speak English.

‘Behaviorally incompetent’?

One of the reasons why young Filipinos are not able to nurture their behavioral traits is because they are brought up in an information technology era “to cut and paste ideas,” said Kilayko.

To copy ideas would not cultivate the student’s capacity for critical thinking. “We have lost the ‘idea generation,’ where people sit down about their ideas and talk to each other,” he added.

Some “cultural aspects” also account for not being able to nurture behavioral competency, Kilayko said, citing many instances wherein parents choose their children’s college courses for them, thinking that they lack maturity in choosing a career path.

Not being able to choose his own course pulls the child back from being responsible and independent-minded, he said.

Success and employability start in high school

The future starts not when you finish college but “when you enter high school,” said Kilayko.

As early as high school, the students should take into consideration what they would take up in college.

Kilayko’s guide in choosing a college course:

1) “Aptitude: Ask yourself what your skills are.

2) Logical thinking: If you are structured, then it would be good if you go for engineering or accounting.

3) Your dreams: This is powerful and good because it is driven by your own personal interest and eventually help harness your skills.”

Hubert Pacheco, a 23-year-old fresh college graduate, had a childhood dream of becoming a photographer. Now he is a photographer’s assistant and also a freelance photographer.

“Developing your eye for photography takes experience,” Pacheco said. He worked his way to his dream by developing his technical skills and reading books.

Kilayko said that most parents would push their children into taking up courses they are not inclined to.

“If the child likes music, don’t push the child to be a nurse. Most nursing graduates do not have the aptitude towards care for people. There is already a mismatch right there. Don’t expect your child to be successful,” he said.

He said guidance counselors play a role in helping students become successful in the future. They have to be more active in giving advice to students and conduct “accurate” aptitude and psychological tests to guide a student toward the right career path, he said.

Having high grades can show that a future employee is behaviorally competent, Miclat said.

“Excellent academic record is one of the major things we look for especially in new grads,” Miclat said. “It is not because we discriminate, but it tells something about their behavior in school and how hard working they are.”

Having good grades is especially important for graduates, since “they don’t have that much work experience, yet,” she added.

But behavioral competency is really learned outside the classroom and work experience is a big factor said Kilayko.

Internships or any work experience “even not related to your job in mind” will help you be employed. “A way to increase your chances in finding a job is being a working student,” Kilayko said.

Balancing time between academics and your work would impress your future employers.

Joining groups and organizations in school or outside, shows they can balance academic pursuits with non-academic activities and helps make them more well-rounded.

“Becoming leaders in their organization shows that they have leadership skills, time and project management skills,” Miclat said.

Mismatch made in unemployment hell

A technical mismatch happens because of the conflicting demands of the students and the companies.

New jobs are demand-driven by companies and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has a forecast on which companies or projects will open up, said Kilayko.

On the other hand, the students’ demands determine what courses schools would offer.

“They ask for more nursing schools. Is there even a demand now? Parents tell their children to take up business, so schools offer it to them,” said Kilayko.

However, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said in a statement issued March 25 that there would be enough employment for the remaining months if the new graduates would not be “choosy.”

But what if their skills do not match with the jobs available?

The most number of graduates for 2009 are from business administration and education and teaching courses. The 200,000 plus graduates of both disciplines comprise almost half of the graduating population.

Rank by # of graduates Discipline Group 2008-20091
1 Business Admin. and Related 114,872
2 Education and Teacher Training 96,646
3 Medical and Allied    87,900
4 Engineering and Technology 63,919
5 Information Technology 49,168
6 Other Disciplines 28,246
7 Social and Behavioral Science 17,934
8 Agricultural, Forestry, Fisheries, Vet Med. 16,861
9 Humanities 6,302
10 Mass Communication and Documentation 5,820
11 Natural Science 4,787
12 Trade, Craft and Industrial 4,388
13 Law and Jurisprudence 4,379
14 Architectural and Town Planning 3,865
15 Maritime 3,504
16 Service Trades 2,529
17 Fine and Applied Arts 2,232
18 Mathematics 1,962
19 Religion and Theology 1,764
20 General 1,717
21 Home Economics 1,532
  Total Graduates of Priority Discipline 383,443
  Grand Total 517,427

 Shaded row refers to Priority Discipline

1Forecasted data
As of 03 December 2008
* Source: Commission on Higher Education

So far, employment for the two disciplines with most graduates has not been prioritized in the government’s recent employment-generating programs.

One of the objectives of the recently approved Economic Resiliency Plan (ERP) is to create and save as many jobs as possible.

Under the P300-billion ERP is the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP), which would hire agriculture and industrial workers to supervise livelihood projects.

No. of Jobs
CLEEP Projects
35,000 Bantay Gubat for upland workers
36,500 Farm to market road projects of the Department of Agriculture (DA)
81,134 Irrigation project of the DA
10,400 Organic fertilizer production project of DA
3,645 Goat dispersal project of DA
27,222 OYSTER roadside program
23,550 TUPAD and ISLA programs of DOLE
1,022 Laguna Water Lily development of Department of Trade and Industry
506,082 Department of Public Works and Highways
100,000 Repair of classrooms and school buildings

* Source: National Economic Development Authority, 2009

Aside from CLEEP, the Department of Labor and Employment’s job-generation website,, shows that there are not many jobs available for the two disciplines – business administration and teaching.

For example, “teaching” is ranked 172 in DOLE’s list of top skills. When you search for a teaching job in DOLE’s, only 38 vacancies are currently available. Topping the list as of April 16 was production and factory workers with 8,584 jobs available.

  "TOP SKILLS" Jobs available
4 CASHIER 2027
7 LABORER 1475
12 WELDER 709

*The top 20 from DOLE’s Top Skills in their job-hunt site,

There is also high demand for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), which includes call centers. In a statement by DOLE, Roque said that 470,000 BPO jobs are still unfilled. Being a call center agent does not require a college degree, like most jobs provided for by the government.

Although there are so many jobs waiting to be filled, people are not being hired because they fail in the technical skills required. “Like in BPO, even though they are college graduates, they fail in the ability to speak English,” Kilayko said. 

Dream come true

Although Roque told new graduates not to be “choosy,” it does not mean that they should settle for the jobs generated by the government.
“Open your newspaper, go to classified ads,” said Kilayko, “there are a lot of jobs out there waiting for you.”

You have to go for what you want. As Kilayko says, don’t expect to be successful if you do not have the aptitude and interest to pursue a certain career.
Pacheco said that his parents did not want him to be a photographer because “there is no money in it.”

“I prepared myself. Here I am,” he said. “They eventually opened up to the idea of my becoming a photographer. I go to debuts and events, take pictures and tell them, ‘This is how I make money,’” Pacheco said.

A student’s dream is the student’s source of interest. Interests help develop a person’s skills, technical and behavioral.

“I have always wanted to be a journalist since I was a child,” said 2008 graduate Ryan Chua who is now a TV reporter for ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol.
“Back then, I would read articles out loud, imitating my favorite newscasters,” Chua recalls. 

“I read newspapers—from Inquirer to Bagong Titik—from cover to cover if I had time. I idolized all the anchors and reporters I saw on TV. TV Patrol was a daily habit,” Chua said.

His daily habit is now his daily job.

as of 04/20/2009 4:45 PM