A globally competitive Philippine Digital Workforce

Several months back, I featured in this column the correlation between having the right skills for its workforce and the country’s global competitiveness and how having an effective skills development program will position it to take advantage of the economic opportunities that the future will bring. The recent passage of RA 11927 or the Philippine Digital Workforce Competitiveness Act is definitely a big step towards achieving those aspirations. If properly executed, it will put into motion a whole-of-government initiative to ensure the competitiveness of the Philippine workforce by providing all Filipino workers access to lifelong learning platforms that will provide them with digital skills that are at par with global standards and get them ready for the work of the future.

There are four forces of disruption that are transforming the work landscape today: emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the work-from-anywhere arrangement enabled by the internet, gig work, and the entry of digital natives into the workforce. The profound effects of technological advancement on the world economy, taken together with globalization and demographic change, have led to a burning societal issue: how to equip the workforce with the skills they need to participate in the economy – today and in the future. A recent World Economic Forum report states that by 2025, 50 percent of the global workforce will need reskilling. The need for a reskilling and upskilling revolution to take off has become imperative if we want to prepare our people for all these disruptions and ensure that emerging work opportunities are shared inclusively.

The new law calls for the creation of an Inter-Agency Council (IAC) for the Development and Competitiveness of the Philippine Digital Workforce to be chaired by the NEDA Secretary. Aside from NEDA, eight other agencies will comprise the IAC, namely: DOLE, DTI, DICT, DOST, DILG, DepEd, CHED, and TESDA. The IAC is expected to engage other sectors such as but not limited to, the academe, the business sector, NGOs, civil society, and other sectoral groups in carrying out its work. The law mandates that the Inter-Agency Council shall be the primary planning, coordinating, and implementing body in the promotion, development, enhancement, and competitiveness of the Philippine digital workforce. A Technical Working Group (TWG) has been organized to work on the development of the Implementing Rules and Regulations to operationalize RA 11927.

When the law is set in motion, the IAC is tasked to develop the National Roadmap for Reskilling, Upskilling, and Training the Filipino Workforce. The roadmap will serve are the orchestrating document necessary to ensure that the execution of the law will take on a whole-of-government approach. Each of the IAC member agencies, together with all concerned stakeholders, is expected to play different roles to achieve the objectives of the law. The roadmap is also expected to be aligned with the Philippine Skills Framework that is under development.

The roadmap will lay down all possible support that can be extended to the workforce. This will include scholarships, full or partial subsidies for the use of co-working or shared service facilities, equipment, and access to DTI’s programs for startups and MSMEs. It will also look at the readiness of LGUs to provide the required digital infrastructure and create local policies to support and promote digital careers and innovations in their respective communities. Initially, the implementation will focus on the development of skills and competencies related to the fastest-growing seven professional areas identified by the World Economic Forum, namely: customer care, engineering skills and cloud computing, sales marketing skills and digital content development, data analytics and artificial intelligence, green jobs, people and culture, and project management.

The development of the roadmap will start with a nationwide skills mapping exercise to be led by DOLE and will also involve all LGUs. The National Skills Map will identify, in each LGU, available skills and competencies, skills gaps and training needs, workforce demographics, and look at the digital skills demand and supply situation.

A web portal will also be established that will provide potential learners with information on available training and skills development courses, certifications, and scholarship opportunities. The portal will be managed by DICT.

This is definitely an ambitious effort to bring together the government, businesses, learning institutions, and other sectors to provide every Filipino worker the opportunity to reskill and upskill to make her/him, not just globally competitive, but better prepared for the jobs and workplace of tomorrow. The Philippines can begin to develop a more competitive, inclusive, and sustainable economy ready for the future by giving them the opportunities to build the skills that they will need to fully participate in the future workplace.

Let us not forget, however, that the key to achieving the goals of the act is in the execution. All the government agencies concerned will have to do their assigned roles effectively and work together seamlessly as one unit and perform just like a well-practiced orchestra does in order to execute well.


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