Mastering the basics and gearing up for the SMART City revolution

Master the basics first. That was one of the core messages emphasized last Friday at the sidelines of the 3rd GAIN National Convention.

Its organizer, the Government-Academe-Industry Network, Inc. (GAIN), is a non-profit created to identify and deal with workforce issues that can be resolved through the synergy of the government, academe, and industry.

According to GAIN, Inc. President and TeamAsia Founder Monette Iturralde-Hamlin, the organization was conceived a few years ago by collaborative players in the government, academe, and industry sectors as a response to the country’s drop in English proficiency — to steer, strengthen, and safeguard the competitiveness of the Filipino.

Their first convention in 2018 centered on the theme of producing globally competitive individuals ready to tackle the fourth industrial revolution. An offshoot was a proposal for a law to set English standards, as well as a bill for global competitiveness filed by then-Senator Pia Cayetano.

This year’s theme, “The Future Workforce and Graduates for the SMART City Revolution: Towards Global Competitiveness and Human Capital Development,” tackled technology’s prevalence in today’s business environment and its impact on the Philippines’ global competitiveness and human capital development. Various discussions honed in on the need to transform Philippine cities and infrastructure to be able to provide faster and more efficient services at par with the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, attract more foreign investment, and create more local job opportunities.

Doing the basics well

Grace Abella-Zata, CEO of thought leadership platform IRC Institute, explains that our integration into the Smart Cities Framework is crucial because of ASEAN’s high growth rates. Such an integration will help solve issues like congestion and ensure that no one gets left behind.

It’s not all about integrating technology into our processes, however. Factors such as soft skills are just as important. “If we really want to succeed, we must equip our people with the right skills,” Hamlin says. One’s readiness to learn and ability to work with people are just as important as intelligence and digital literacy. There is a preference among companies to collaborate with those who can work in teams, influence decisions, and foster leadership.

Then there is also the matter of doing the basics well. The country recently participated in a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that examines students’ knowledge in reading, mathematics, and science. According to the results released on December 3, 2019, the Philippines scored the lowest in reading comprehension and the second-lowest in mathematics and science. The Department of Education welcomed these results in a statement that read, “By participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), we will be able to establish our baseline in relation to global standards, and benchmark the effectiveness of our reforms moving forward. The PISA results, along with our own assessments and studies, will aid in policy formulation, planning, and programming.”

Dr. Peter Laurel, President of Lyceum of the Philippines University – Batangas and Laguna, agrees with this view as he emphasizes the need for mastering the basics and benchmarking with internationally recognized standards. “We can’t aspire for lofty if we can’t do the basics well.”

All four resource persons are keen on developing and implementing practical resolutions to ensure the credibility and efficiency of Filipino employees in the workforce. “There are a lot of positive initiatives that are happening right now,” Zata notes. “Let’s get going while we wait for the infrastructure to happen.”

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