Friday, June 4, 2010

Large-scale Labor Training programs

Of all the countries that depend on the foreign currency earnings of its expatriate workforce, the Philippines stands out. First the scale is second to none: a quarter of the workforce are employed overseas. College graduates are willing to go abroad to work low-level service jobs, to earn salaries way beyond what they could earn domestically. Second, a legacy of the American colonial presence means most people speak English. Third is diversification: Filipino workers are trained to go after many types of jobs ranging from domestic/hotel work, merchant marines, drivers, construction, ... And as many ex-pats in Asia and the Middle East, Filipinos are the musicians and nightclub entertainers in many parts of the world. No wonder the NY Times recently reported that:
... Despite the world’s sagging economy, the country set records last year for the number of workers sent abroad and the sums they returned.
Every Philippine government makes a concerted effort to market and promote Filipino workers in all corners of the world. More importantly there are many government and private programs that not only place workers overseas, but prepare them for the challenges they'll face when they go abroad. It's not surprising that other countries don't have similar programs in place. Doing so is an admission that the local economy can't absorb its own citizens. But the benefits are compelling. These programs designed to send workers abroad, have proven themselves time and again, through many economic slowdowns. At the end of the day, they're able to get large numbers of people employed, at rates that few employee re-training programs can match.
... On every corner of this jeepney-jammed capital, someone seems to be coming from or going to a job overseas. At the Magsaysay Training Center, beside Manila Bay, college graduates scrub replicas of cruise ship cabins, hoping for housekeeping jobs that can pay four times the local wage. A park across the street doubles as a sailors’ bazaar, a reminder that the Philippines supplies at least a fifth of the world’s seafarers.

In government seminars a mile away, throngs of outbound maids learn to greet future bosses in Arabic, Italian and Cantonese. Some cry through a film about a nanny who wins an overseas job but loses the love of her children.

... Elsewhere on campus, women learn to fix cars, sew skirts and set banquet tables. Posters celebrate alumnae overseas. (“Marjury Briones is now working at the Pars Hotel in Bahrain as a flair bartender.”)

... Mexicans are closely tied to one place (the United States), and one industry (construction). Filipinos work across the globe in dozens of occupations. Mexican migration is unmanaged and mostly illegal. Filipino workers are promoted by the state, and most go with contracts and visas.

... The Magsaysay Training Center in Manila feels less like a vocational school than a theme park of migrant trades, filled with replicas of foreign work sites.

Student sailors in a simulator room steer ships through high-tech storms. Student bakers in toques practice cream puff injections. A glass wall offers a view of a luxury hotel room, where instructors watch trainees wipe the marble bath and stock the minibar.


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