Are Gen Zs Ready for Work? Determining Career Optimism of the Next Generation

March 22, 2022
Published: 9:58 am March 22, 2022 | Updated: 12:51 pm May 19, 2022

    Are Gen Zs Ready For Work?Determining Career Optimism of the Next GenerationAugust 20, 2021 2:00-4:30 PM, via Zoom Meetings I. BACKGROUND Compared to basic education, the stakes are much higher in college education, both at the household and the societal level. On a personal or household level, the decision to get a college […]


 

 

Are Gen Zs Ready For Work?
Determining Career Optimism of the Next Generation
August 20, 2021 2:00-4:30 PM, via Zoom Meetings

I. BACKGROUND

Compared to basic education, the stakes are much higher in college education, both at the household and the societal level. On a personal or household level, the decision to get a college degree is based on expectations of better opportunities to build a career and earn a comfortable living, for the self and the family. At the societal level, a highly educated workforce yields greater productivity, as well as faster social mobility and economic growth.

However, it takes a considerable length of time for the Filipino youth to gain employment after schooling and, hence, make meaningful social and economic contributions. Between 2006 and 2020, more than one million Filipinos between 15 and 24 years old are annually classified as unemployed – comprising 50% of the country’s total unemployment.1

The Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) argues the problem of youth unemployment is driven by two factors: first, school-to-work transition leads to months or years of missed opportunities: A college graduate, for instance, takes a year to find a first job and up to two years to find a permanent job.2 The second, and what appears to be a bigger factor,3 is the job-skills mismatch, due to a significant gap between the course offerings of academic institutions and the needs of the labor market.

To address the latter, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) developed a labor market information (LMI) system. The LMI aims to provide “timely, relevant, and accurate signals on the current labor market, such as in-demand jobs and skills shortages by developing client- specific LMI, Education and Communication materials.”4 The LMI is an element of the DOLE’s Career Guidance Advocacy Program which, in turn, promotes the use of career guidance in helping students make informed career choices based on labor market trends.5

 

  1. Based on the data published by the Philippine Statistics Authority through its Decent Work Statistics database and Labor Force Survey reports.
  2. ADB [2012] as cited by ECOP [n.d.]
  3. ECOP. n.d. Job-skills Mismatch in the Philippines and the advent of Industry 4.0. [Online] Available at: http://www.fsi.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/JRAM-Job-Skills-Mismatch-Mabini-Dialogue.pdf. 
  4. Department of Labor and Employment Website [Online] Available at: https://www.dole.gov.ph/about-lmi/.
  5. Ibid.

Thus, the FEU Public Policy Center (FPPC) through the support of the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) embarked on a study that analyzed the determining factors that influence career optimism of Gen-Z Filipino college students from various schools. Career optimism is defined as “a disposition to expect the best possible outcome, or to emphasize the most positive aspects, of one’s future career development and comfort in performing career planning tasks” (Rottinghaus et al., 2005: 11).

II. OPENING REMARKS

Dr. Michael M. Alba

President, Far Eastern University

FPPC’s College Experience Survey (CES) is a longitudinal study that collects student responses on a wide range of topics. These include the following:

  • Socio-economic characteristics of respondents and their household
  • Factors that affect school choice
  • Self-assessment of academic performance
  • Educational and career aspirations
  • Allocated time for common activities
  • Personal views on select social issues

The CES is administered by FPPC to private and public-school students across the country. In the first two cycles, it tracked college students belonging to the 2014 and 2015 cohorts. It is currently tracking college students belonging to the 2020 cohort.

In partnership with the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), the data gathered from the CES was utilized in conducting a study on the career optimism of the Generation Z (Gen Z), a demographic cohort born between the end of the 1990s and the start of the 2010s. Dr. Ma. Christina Epetia, Assistant Professor at the UP School of Economics (UPSE), led the study and explored the following questions:

  • How does support (parental, peer, and school), labor market information, and student background affect career optimism among college students?
  • What career guidance platforms are available for college students?
  • What are the students’ sources of information on job and career prospects?

III. PRESENTATION OF KEY FINDINGS 

Dr. Ma. Christina F. Epetia 

Research Consultant

Generally, the decision to pursue college education comes with expectations of higher wages in the future. In related studies conducted in other countries, researchers have observed that the Gen Z are largely optimistic of their career prospects. However, persistent job-skills mismatch present in the labor market can lead to long spells of unemployment or underemployment for fresh college graduates. In addition, studies have also observed a perception among the youth that college education does not equip them with vital workplace skills such as negotiation and public speaking. Finally, for those who are still in college, the present experience is vastly different because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on learning and the economy.

In academic literature, career optimism is defined as a disposition to expect the best possible outcome or to emphasize the most positive aspect of one’s future career development. In previous studies, career optimism has been linked to career aspirations and adaptive behavior among college students and new entrants to the labor force.

Related literature has pointed out that contextual support (e.g., from parents, peers, and the school) and career knowledge may positively influence career optimism. On the other hand, contextual barriers such as an economic recession may inhibit career optimism.

Data from the 2014, 2015, and 2020 CES revealed that the majority of student respondents have a high degree of career optimism. For example, almost 60% of sophomore students in the 2014 cohort responded that they rarely or never had a thought of remaining undecided about their degree programs in a typical week. A similar pattern was observed among junior students in the 2014 cohort and sophomore and junior students in the 2015 cohort. For the 2020 CES, a different question was employed to measure career optimism. Based on the responses, 52.6% of male respondents and 66.6% of female respondents said that they strongly agree with the statement that he/she is eager to pursue his/her career goals.

In terms of sources of career information, family and friends was the most common source followed by the school environment, social media, career development and business seminars, online job portals, and government career publication materials.

The study observed that the majority of students were aware of job opportunities. However, close to half reported that they neither agree nor disagree with the statement that they do not understand job market trends. These results might imply room for improvement in disseminating and communicating labor market information.

Based on websites and social media pages of universities, schools mostly focus their career services on bridging graduating students to internships and job opportunities. These services include job fairs and workshops on writing a resume, interviewing for a position, and securing documents issued by the government. To keep abreast of employment opportunities, schools maintain connections with alumni and establish linkages with industry. Aside from the usual career consultation, some schools also share career-related information with their students through social media pages. For non-graduating students, schools offer counseling and standardized tests on educational and career choices.

After conducting statistical tests, the study found that contextual support from the school environment was positively linked with career optimism.

  • For the 2015 cohort, greater satisfaction with overall quality of classroom instruction was associated with greater career optimism
  • For the 2020 cohort, (1) interaction with faculty members and (2) high satisfaction with their school’s counselling and psychological support services were associated with greater career optimism.

The study also found that contextual barriers were negatively linked with career optimism.

  • For the 2014 cohort, respondents who reported that college financing was a major concern had lesser career optimism.
  • For the 2015 cohort, respondents who reported that college financing was a concern (either minor or major) had lesser career optimism.
  • For the 2020 cohort, respondents who belong to households which experienced job loss had lesser career optimism.

As expected, career knowledge was positively linked with greater career optimism. A strong awareness of job opportunities was associated with greater career optimism. Getting career information from family and friends, school instructors, school career services, online job portals, and seminars was also associated with greater career optimism. While social media was a major source of career information, its relationship with career optimism was not found to be statistically significant.

In terms of socio-economic characteristics and self-assessment of respondents, the study found the following relationships statistically significant:

  • Respondents who were satisfied with the relevance of schoolwork to future career plans displayed greater career optimism.
  • Respondents from the 2015 cohort who were satisfied with their performance in the previous academic year displayed greater career optimism.
  • Respondents who reported that they were driven to achieve displayed greater career optimism.
  • Male students from the 2020 cohort are likely to have lesser career optimism.
  • Respondents from the 2020 cohort whose permanent residence is outside NCR are likely to have lesser career optimism.

Given the above findings, the study recommends greater collaboration and coordination between parents or guardians, the school, government, and industry. These should lead to the provision of credible labor market information, appropriate career support and services, and financial assistance as necessary. 

  • Career optimism under the premise of more informed choices can be improved through closer collaboration between the school and a student’s parents or guardians. Close connections and the school environment are major sources of information that have been found to be associated with greater career optimism. However, there seemed to be little to no participation of parents or guardians in career services provided by schools. Schools could actively involve parents or guardians by initiating a three-way discussion between the student, the parents or guardians, and the school.
  • Schools can investigate the reasons as to why some students are not availing career and counselling services. As an initial step, schools might find it useful to create separate profiles for students who avail and do not avail of their career and counselling services. The profiles could tease out patterns that would be helpful in fine-tuning their services and ensuring greater uptake.
  • Schools can take advantage of their industry linkages to ensure that their curricula equip students with hard and soft skills demanded from jobseekers. Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), around 20% of employers reported difficulty in filling up vacancies because applicants lack competencies. Soft skills such as leadership, work ethic and commitment, interpersonal skills, and communication skills are becoming more important in the workplace.
  • Career services can be implemented side-by-side counselling services to address both career-related interests and the overall well-being of students. Positive traits such as satisfaction in academic performance and drive to achieve have been found to be associated with career optimism. However, existing circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic affect overall well-being, which can spill over to less satisfaction in academic performance and less drive to achieve.
  • The government can improve the reach of their labor market information dissemination by linking more closely with the academe, industry, and students’ parents or guardians. The career advocacy program of the government has great potential to improve the job-skills mismatch in the labor market. However, government publications are a less popular source of career information among students. The government is well-positioned to understand the discrepancies between skills taught in schools and skills needed in industry given its resources and linkages across domestic and foreign sectors.
  • Financial assistance can boost career optimism among students experiencing financial difficulties. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) may publish the costs of schooling as well as available scholarships to help families prepare for the financial demands of college education.

IV. PANEL REACTIONS

The FPPC and PBED invited five reactors from various fields of education, as well as the government and youth sectors to provide insights based on the study. Each reactor answered a few advanced questions that sought to enrich the cohort study’s findings and recommendations based on their experience and perspectives as movers in their respective fields or sectors. 

Assistant Secretary Dominique R. Tutay  

Department of Labor and Employment

Gen-Zs are generally ready for work. They are digital natives, a characteristic the labor market needs under the new normal. 

COVID 19 has facilitated the fourth Industrial Revolution. Under the present circumstances, Gen Zs work under multiple realities. They are highly interactive and independent, making them ideal for entrepreneurship. But if they wish to pursue wage employment, they need to focus on other skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and negotiation skills. They should also work to increase their adversity and emotional quotient in order to better build resilience, especially amid the pandemic.

Career optimism is also influenced by what is known as the challenge of the digital divide. Most of the students who participated in the survey have access to career information, digital tools, and a stable internet connection. It should be noted, though, that they are mostly from schools in the National Capital Region and in Luzon, where there are more urban areas in comparison to Visayas and Mindanao. 

The pandemic, which will definitely impact students’ overall career optimism, will also impact access to and the reach of the department’s labor market information (LMI) initiatives, depending on which side of the digital divide the students are in. Students in urban areas will continue to have more access than those in rural areas to DOLE’s recent LMI initiatives, which are largely found online: a JobsFit COVID-19 LMI Report, which details how the pandemic is reshaping the labor market and identifies the key job-generating sectors at present (e.g., BPO, ICT, health and wellness) based on DOLE and PSA figures.

From the previous administration, some collaboration has already been established to close the gaps between education/skills training and jobs demand. Together with five other agencies (DepEd, DOST, CHED, TESDA, PRC), DOLE has launched a career guidance advocacy program (CGAP) to address jobs mismatch; here, the agencies attempt to increase the influence of LMI in the schools’ education and training curricula, as well as career guidance programs. Unfortunately, the DOLE admits the CGAP has been lagging in terms of designing and aligning the schools’ curricula and course offerings with what the labor market information is telling them. 

Together with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), DOLE has also helped in laying the groundwork for the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF), as institutionalized by RA 10968. The PQF is a merit system based on international standards on knowledge, skills, and values that can ensure the competitiveness of students in gaining employment here and abroad.

DOLE co-leads another initiative with the Department of Trade and Industry. Named the Philippine Standards Framework, the initiative seeks to develop sector-specific skills frameworks that can help workers and students planning their careers in knowing which skills to enhance for their particular job roles or goals. 

DOLE’s LMI publications and career information pamphlets can help family members and other sources of job information in providing informed insights and advice. DOLE uploads the materials online (Careerinfo.ph). Particularly in career information pamphlets, readers will know the basics of specific jobs, such as nature of work, basic educational requirements, skills and competencies, attributes, employment opportunities, and cost of education and training, and the like.

Further underscoring the need to help students in making informed career decisions, DOLE has been in close contact with networks of guidance counselors and career advocates. They rely on these networks to cascade labor market trends and other information to students. 

In sum, the government, industry, and education and training sectors are working together to address the ongoing problem of jobs and skills mismatch. The labor market is dynamic; the best way to ride with its ever-changing nature is to keep informed.

Commissioner Aldrin Darilag, Represented by Dir. Marivic Iriberri

Commission on Higher Education

Commissioner Darilag was represented by Dr. Iriberri, OIC Director IV of the Office of Student Development and Services of CHED. 

Among the identified determinants of career optimism in the study are access to career knowledge and trends, satisfaction with classroom instruction and school counseling, and opportunities to lessen the financial burden of schooling. CHED has advanced a number of policies in line with its vision to help Philippine schools produce globally competitive graduates and lifelong learners, and to ensure equitable access to tertiary education and the relevance of the course offerings of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to the labor demand, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One such important policy is the CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 8, S. 2021, or the Guidelines on the Implementation of Flexible Delivery of Student Affairs and Services (SAS) Programs during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The CMO underscores, among others, the importance of ensuring student affairs and services across HEIs provide initiatives that promote the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of students, especially in this difficult period. It also highlights career guidance as among the services HEIs should strive to provide in order to boost the career optimism and confidence of students. 

Other relevant provisions in the CMO include the need for SAS offices or units to provide the following:

  1. A proper student orientation on the flexible learning system 
  2. Mental health services during the pandemic, which includes mechanisms to closely monitor academic performance and mental wellbeing of students
  3. The publication of a guidebook for flexible learning that supplements the HEIs’ respective student handbooks. Guideposts may include etiquette during online classes, sourcing additional learning materials on their own.
  4. Setup of online platforms for disseminating information on SAS programs 
  5. Partnership and collaboration with and among HEIs to ensure the effective provision of SAS programs 

In line with CMO 8, S. 2021, CHED is also promoting the establishment of integrative wellness programs, as well as a review of HEIs’ existing curricula and offerings to come up with programs that meet the employment demand created by the pandemic. 

CHED is helping the HEIs and the students keep tabs on career prospects under the current global context by, among others, posting on the website the Top 10 career opportunities for the post-COVID 19 world: robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, human resources, law, digital transformation, business leadership, financial consultancy, entrepreneurship, marketing, and business analysis.

A recent OECD study in 2021 has underscored the need to provide career guidance in light of widespread unemployment due to the ways the pandemic has shaped the labor market. On the supply side, low-skilled adults who have disproportionately lost their jobs will need to upscale or retrain. On the demand side, the crisis will lead to greater adoption of digital technologies and automation. 

Innovative career guidance and mentorship strategies may help facilitate reemployment and identify the most relevant skills training for displaced workers and fresh graduates alike. The CHED has ensured that provisions under the CMO No. 8 S. 2021 are congruent with the National Recovery Program and resiliency projects of the government especially in bridging today’s students to the labor demands of the time. This CMO complements a much earlier policy, CMO No. 9, S. 2013 or the Enhanced Policies and Guidelines on Student Affairs and Services has already emphasized the services that HEIs should provide to bridge students to job and entrepreneurship opportunities. 

CMO No. 46 S. 2013 seeks to ensure tertiary students acquire the desired competencies to ensure their employability through an outcomes-based quality assurance system. This policy standard, further institutionalized via the PQF, has led to the revision of 90 curricular programs for alignment with the Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) framework.

CHED Administrative Order 9 S. 2019 has institutionalized greater industry involvement in the formation of policies in tertiary education. 

Besides the above-mentioned policies, CHED has also undertaken steps to close the gap between HEIs’ curricula and labor demand by (1) engaging in data gathering and analyses; (2) periodic dialogues with multiple stakeholders; (3) strengthening linkages with industry groups; and (4) fostering collaboration with fellow government agencies, such as the Board of Investments, Department of Tourism, Department of Education, TESDA, Department of Energy, and the Department of Transportation, among others, to address human resource needs, provide skills training, and streamline the required competencies and credentials for job opportunities in priority industries and sectors.

In line with the identification of financial assistance as a determinant of career optimism among HEI students, Dr. Iriberri enumerated available scholarship options through the Commission, which include the following:

  1. CHED Scholarship Program, for poor students, persons with disabilities, solo parents, senior citizens, indigenous peoples, orphans, those living in the areas of armed conflict, and other underprivileged people who wish to pursue a college education. Currently, the CHED has 34,735 slots for ongoing students for the second semester, AY 2020-2021 amounting to P609.8 million; 31,430 slots for first semester AY 2021-2022 amounting to P571.5 million; and 7269 slots amounting to P270.5 million for new grantees. 
  2. CHED Grants for Children of Sugarcane Workers and Small Farmers
  3. Cash grants for new and continuing medical students in eight (8) participating State Universities and Colleges. The commission has opened 1,749 slots for new and ongoing medical students for the first semester, AY 2021-2022, amounting to P167 million. 
  4. A forthcoming Medical Scholarship and Return Service Program, in line with RA 11509 or the Doktor Para sa Bayan (Doctors for the Nation) Act, with an initial 1,136 target beneficiaries with a tentative funding requirement of P250 million. The implementing rules and regulations have been submitted for public consultation.
  5. Government-subsidized free tuition and school fees for SUCs under the landmark RA 10931.

The pandemic forces the entire academe to shift from the traditional ways of imparting skills and knowledge, and adhere to the parameters of sustainable education.

Dr. Raymundo Reyes

Chair, Industry-Academe Linkage Committee, Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); and Chief Operations Officer, PHINMA Education 

Dr. Reyes presented PHINMAEd’s strategies to prepare its students for the workplace; leverage partnerships to close the gap between curriculum design and industry demand, and link up with government agencies such as CHED and DOLE in terms of career guidance and keeping up with labor trends.

PHINMAEd has established partnerships with 150 companies and industry groups (e.g. Construction) covering areas such as curriculum design, instruction, faculty immersion, internships, etc., in order to help students acquire the right skills to be employed.

In consultation with industries, PHINMAEd has designed course bibles to standardize instruction and ensure its synergy with the attributes, skills, and competencies required by the labor market. It has also conducted periodic curriculum reviews in line with CHED’s OBE framework, in order to ensure students gain employment as soon as they graduate from their respective courses. 

Annually, PHINMAEd conducts roundtable discussions with industry experts on the relevant competencies and skills that prospective workers should possess in order to land jobs.

In terms of instruction, PHINMAEd schools have encouraged and even required a portion of the faculty load to be handled by active industry practitioners. Their faculty members are also sent to immersion with industry partners in order to get firsthand knowledge of industry trends and realities 

With help from its partners and sister companies, PHINMAEd has built simulation labs, such as a mock hotel for HRM students (designed with the help of Microtel, a PHINMA company). This is to provide students with practical, real-world experience. 

In line with the pandemic, PHINMAEd placed 400 students in virtual internships with more than 20 of its industry partners. Students were also given mock interviews to prepare for actual job interviews, as well as virtual mentorships, such as one conducted in partnership with the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers in 2020, which involved 47 civil engineering students. 

PHINMAEd also rolled out a series of webinars featuring industry partners to teach students the needed soft skills to get hired, such as social media behavior. It has also organized online career fairs, with the help of partners like DOLE and its partner companies and industries.

Meanwhile, as chair of PACU Industry-Academe Linkage Committee, Dr. Reyes presented the group’s ongoing initiatives, chiefly Usapang Industriya (Industry Talks), a series of career fora on various disciplines together with PACU’s industry partners in health sciences, engineering, and business, hosted by institutions such as Wesleyan University, Our lady of Fatima University, Jose Rizal University, PHINMAEd, University of Iloilo, etc. In PACU’s pipeline are similar talks involving several other industries such as tourism, hotel and restaurant management, and education, among other disciplines.

Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada

Managing Director, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) 

Efforts to build linkages between industries and the academe date back to the 1990s. Such efforts seek to address the longstanding problem of jobs mismatch and hence, strengthen the naturally symbiotic relationship of industry and the academe.

Most of these efforts to build external linkages, such as the setup of external linkages and career placement offices, are structured the way they are required by CHED policies. The following are currently among the most common linkage-building efforts done by colleges and universities: 

  1. On-the-job training (OJTs)
  2. Apprenticeships
  3. Field and plant visits
  4. Scholarships in partnership with schools
  5. Career talks
  6. Job fairs
  7. Student leadership camps
  8. Industry-sponsored activities.

On the level of school associations such as COCOPEA and PACU, partnerships have been established with major chambers of commerce, management associations (ECOP, MAP), and similar groups to tailor instruction and curriculum design to industry demand. In line with this point, it should be noted that the education sector is an industry in itself; many schools provide opportunities for students to train or work as student or research assistants, many of whom are considered for hiring after graduation.

Faculty members serve as natural career counselors outside of formal career service providers in a given institution. The challenge for the schools is being able to attract professionals with real-world industry experience in their roster and allowing existing faculty to apply their knowledge outside the academe. The former compels revisiting the regulatory framework to give equal weight to industry expertise.

In order to keep up with the local skills demand, the regulatory framework should also provide HEIs, especially the non-autonomous and non-deregulated institutions, greater flexibility to design their respective courses. 

Assistance and subsidies from the government (especially from the RA 10931) will really help not only career optimism but also the sustainability of schools. It will really help to consider timing, equity, and the targeting of beneficiaries; particularly on the timing, assistance should start from the application of freshmen students to really encourage students from financially challenged households to enroll and pursue a college degree. 

Besides asking whether Gen Zs are ready for work, it also needs to be asked and assessed whether the workplaces are actually ready to welcome the Gen Zs given their unique strengths and capabilities particularly on technology and digital spaces.

In connection, and given the pandemic, one thing to look closely at when it comes to bridging the Gen Z graduates to gainful employment under this pandemic: Will there be a sort of discrimination against hiring them given their almost completely online mode of education that they got or are getting?

Mr. Russel Batoy

President Emeritus, FEU University Peer Counselors Organization

From his experience in accessing career information, FEU has guidance counseling and career placement offices that work hand-in-hand in providing career assessment and guidance, and industry linkages to make students future-ready. Mr. Batoy learned about these initiatives because of his school’s robust information dissemination drive, which is largely done via their online learning platforms.

Career advice programs, including mentorships with FEU alumni, pre-employment preparation or PEP talk (seminars, workshops, training on practical matters such as preparing CVs, personality development, mock interviews), online job fairs. It is fair to say that FEU has equipped them with the right information, skills, and attitudes to be work-ready.

Mr. Batoy shared that their guidance office has been involved in efforts to improve the students’ self-efficacy and keep their career plans/paths in check. As for CHED and DOLE, while he is aware of the partnerships they have established with FEU’s career guidance initiatives, he honestly did not have any prior firsthand experience using their platforms.

Parents and faculty members serve as a major influence in students’ career decision-making. Many college students are children of highly skilled professionals, who serve as their immediate source of information, directly or indirectly through their own experience on the job. However, some of them took their respective courses out of pressure from parents and peers who happen to be less informed of their interests. This is counterproductive, especially with regard to their performance, decision-making, and optimism on the career path that is forced on them. It is hence important for both the students and parents to be provided with concrete, reliable, well-researched information on career planning.

The pandemic has disrupted sectors, putting everything at a complete halt at one point. The abrupt transition from face-to-face to online learning has impacted students, including their mental wellbeing. Mr. Batoy, for one, has been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and had a hard time focusing on his academics while being afraid of contracting the virus and bearing the brunt of social isolation. To help address this, FEU has offered psychosocial support. But this might not be true for other schools. Mental health has taken a backseat in the scheme of priorities as far as both the policies of the government’s education agencies and the HEIs are concerned. 

From his experience in his internship, Mr. Batoy has sensed that the industries have not fully adjusted with the online setup. They have somehow lacked in providing the interns under the virtual setup with opportunities to acquire leadership and practical skills. With this, Mr. Batoy fears for his and his fellow students’ futures as graduates under the current situation may create undue and dated expectations, and hence be prone to simply labeling them as incompetent. 

HEIs, in close coordination with CHED and DOLE, must recalibrate their policies and career programs. The World Economic Forum’s Career Projection in 2025 shows 50% of employees will need to re-skill in order to adapt to the economic and technological disruption caused by the pandemic. Hence, labor market information must start from high school in order to help students in assessing early on their career paths and hence have a head start on the skills that their respective career paths require. LMI initiatives, particularly those offered by CHED and DOLE, should be implemented on the ground for greater access by the students, in order to yield tangible results in terms of improving their career optimism. They have to be sustained as well. 

In sum, Mr. Batoy calls on the government to invest more in, and provide greater access to, LMI, scholarships, mental health, and health in general if the society wants the current generation to reach its full potential. In catalyzing social change, no student must be left behind. No student left behind is not a mere slogan; it is a cry of the poor and the vulnerable who will benefit from a more inclusive approach to learning and gaining a productive future.

V. QUESTION AND ANSWER | OPEN FORUM

The forum provided participants and attendees with the time to ask questions to Dr. Epetia and the forum reactors. The questions surfaced and expounded on issues affecting career optimism of Gen Z students, including the prevalence of jobs mismatch, concerns on the perception of graduates of the virtual learning setup, scholarships and other opportunities for underprivileged and marginalized students, and opportunities for further research.

For DOLE Asst. Sec. Tutay:

1. If concerned agencies are aware of the mismatch why is it still happening? (Maritoni Matibag)

I mentioned earlier that, even if we update labor market information from time to time, the market is quite dynamic and hence, the requirements of our labor market would be different from one situation to another. And by the time the information is thrown to the education and training sector, there is already a lag, of a year or a couple of years, in terms of updating the curricula before they respond to the labor demand at a given time. The pace of changing labor demands is also made even faster by the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. The mismatch will be there to stay but our panelists working for the education sector should think of how to adjust and adapt to the labor market demand sooner than they do now.

2. Are there any job opportunities that the government provides for Grade 10 completes who are not able to continue in Senior High School because of some financial difficulties especially during this time of crisis? (Rodel Suinan)

There are entry-level positions in the government that do not require a college degree but require applicants to pass the Civil Service Examinations. Those who wish to earn skills can join the Government Internship Program. The program lasts for 3-6 months and that is where agencies also look for potential talent. Some of the interns have in fact found permanent employment after joining the program and passing the Civil Service Eligibility requirement.

In terms of available opportunities in the private sector, there are also some companies that open positions for High School Graduates. Our High School graduates can compete in the labor market to some extent.

3. Due to the sudden transition of schooling to the virtual space, I think it has been hard for both the students and the institutions to adjust to online learning. As a graduating student, I’m concerned about my chances of employment because of the prevailing narrative that graduates of online education are incompetent. Do you think it would be possible for, DOLE to, say, institutionalize policies against discrimination towards online school graduates? (Johanna Trish Cinco)

To be candid, I have not yet heard of any issue or instance of discrimination against graduates of online learning, especially since you are the first batch to do so. What is important is that you will be able to hurdle the hiring process. It is kind of tedious but it helps to look into the qualifications, standards, and expected tasks for the job positions you are applying for. And of course, be ready to compete, because the labor market is very tight nowadays given that a lot of job seekers have years of experience behind them but have been displaced. As new graduates, you may highlight some of the skills you have acquired, particularly the digital skills you are more familiar with than most other candidates.  

For CHED/Dr. Iriberri:

We all say that no student should be left behind. As a communication major, we have fewer opportunities to access scholarships. This is quite alarming because students are abandoning Humanities majors, turning to degrees that they think will yield far better job prospects. Can we expect equal opportunities for career support with those in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and ABM (Accountancy, Business, and Management) strands? (Gebrel Al-Bari)

On the part of the Commission on Higher Education, with regard to the priority programs for our scholarships–of course, topping the list are programs under STEM. However, we also allotted a percentage for non-STEM programs. They may check the list of eligible programs on our CHED website. This is a result of consultations we conducted with the DTI, DOST, and other government agencies.

For Atty. Estrada/COCOPEA:

1. Can the panel comment on how employers view the Gen Z batch of graduates, especially those whose studies were directly affected by the pandemic? Are they viewed as less capable by employers? Are they viewed as less hirable? (Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN)

I think there should be no distinction in terms of the graduates and completers because the standards and curricula followed by the institutions are based on the minimum requirements of our government through the Commission on Higher Education. In fact, probing into the needs of companies now, we will see that their workplace needs have also been reshaped by the pandemic. They are, for example, looking at specific competencies such as financial literacy, functional math, digital literacy; and attributes such as stress tolerance. In other words, they are looking more into specific needs and less into the deficiencies brought about by the pandemic. Hence, there should be no distinction at all.

But earlier, I raised the question about the new online-intensive mode of learning precisely because it is a fear articulated by many schools and students–how do we conduct internships and immersions under this setup?

2. As a G12 Senior High School (SHS) Teacher, I noticed that students are not guided in terms of strand choices when they reach SHS. Most results of NCAE are disregarded by students and choose a strand based on peer influence and not necessarily on inclinations. How can we strengthen the systems in secondary education to address this concern?

There are many factors, and the schools are situated differently, but I think one measure that can help SHS institutions is to have more guidance counselors and career guidance professionals. I think we are facing a shortage of qualified career and guidance counselors in basic education given the number of students that will need to do career planning as they choose which courses they wish to pursue in College.  

For Mr. Batoy:

What intervention(s) would you suggest to motivate Gen Z in the workplace? (Tessie Retuya)

I think Generation Z is very much inclined towards technology. I think employers should make sure to utilize the skills that we have in the workplace. From his experience during his clinical apprenticeship as a graduating Psychology student, Mr. Batoy shared he was once asked to do publicity material. I don’t think that is something that would help motivate me to do his work and provide me skills I can actually use for his future profession. It’s also important for the employers not to micromanage this generation since they love to work on their own, as well as embrace technology the way Gen Zers do and create collaborative teams. But definitely, we can ask around and seek insights from fellow Gen Zers; our perspective as student leaders could be different from a typical student by their respective experiences.

For Dr. Epetia:

1. Based on the survey, were students provided with adequate counseling services, in particular career guidance? 2) What future research would you suggest to look more into career optimism?

Actually, the study has a question on the CES (Career Education Survey) regarding students’ satisfaction with counseling and guidance services provided by the schools. What’s interesting there is, more than 50% of the respondents across cohorts rated the services as just “Good” (compared to very good or excellent. There is room for improvement in the provision of these services, particularly in making them more beneficial to students.

In terms of what can be done for further research, let’s relate it to the level of student satisfaction with the career guidance services, and ask the students more directly: which particular service(s) do they find most useful so that the schools themselves would know which specific areas to improve on. There are also nuances in the study, such as gender and regional differences when it comes to career optimism which is interesting to probe deeper. The fact also that the 2020 cohorts are freshmen students under the pandemic-influenced setup can be taken advantage of for longitudinal data–particularly with how they view the career guidance/information services and how these respective views change over time.

VI. SUMMARY OF ATTENDEES

The forum was attended by the following stakeholders:

  • FPPC CES Participating Schools
  • PBEd Partner Schools
  • Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  • Commission on Higher Education (CHED)
  • Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA)
  • Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU)
  • Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA)
  • Student Organizations from CES Participating Schools
  • Members from the media
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