Future of work

WHAT is the plan of the country in reopening the economy? Is it tourism? Or maintain the perennial drivers: OFW and BPO? Do we remain a service economy, a creative economy or do we decide to provide first for the 110 million Filipinos with life sustenance before we even dream of being an industrial nation.

The Medium Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF) only refers to half of the equation which, by and large, are already off the chart because of the behavior of currencies globally and has created several issues in the domestic market, principal of which is inflation. "When prices for energy, food, commodities and other goods and services rise, the entire economy is affected. Rising prices, known as inflation, impact the cost of living, the cost of doing business, borrowing money, mortgages, corporate and government bond yields, and every other facet of the economy." Money loses its value with inflation. Inequality is heightened. Exchange rate fluctuations need to be monitored. Inflation also impacts on the cost of borrowing and leads to increased cost of living. So, the MTFF is not the solution. It offers a part of it, which is how to raise revenue to ensure we have the wherewithal for the budget.

How do we reboot the economy post-pandemic? If we are still figuring things out, we will be too late to participate as other countries are hoisting up fast. We still have not seen any road map but critical to investigate tertiary education, Industry 4.0 (there is already talk on 5.0), competitive advantage of the local government units (LGU) and the needs of businesses in the area. These factors are at play and local chief executives should be able to transform their competitive advantage, integrating education and the needs of economy of the LGU.

There are three points that need to be considered in putting together the future in the country for us to be competitive and resilient: 1) attributes of the local economy; 2) education (academic and micro credentials); and 3) graduates needed by local business. As an advocate of Education 4.0, we need to review the roles of SUCs and LUCs (mind you, they are not the same, so the habit of the Commission on Higher Education to lump them together is erroneous) with the business climate of the area, ensuring academic and TVET (technical and vocational education and training) institutions are able to produce the graduates needed by the economy. That is what agile education is. To be competitive, academic institutions need to innovate. It cannot remain static or conform to age-old CHEd practices, including insisting that LUCs (local colleges and universities) be made to conform to guidelines set for SUCs (state colleges and universities).

CHEd should be in the forefront of pursuing Education 4.0 even as others are ushering in Education 5.0 already. Education 4.0 is a "purposeful approach to learning that lines up with the fourth industrial revolution and about transforming the future of education using advanced technology and automation. Creativity is the foundation of Education 4.0. It emphasizes the need to prepare students to take on challenges, head-on. To keep up with the change, one has to revisit the traditional educational paradigms with a futuristic approach. Students should be adept with skills set by the fast-changing technology; they should be led but not instructed; information should be made accessible but not fed to them. Both general and vocational education should aim at making students skills-ready to compete with the outside labor force." The trends of Education 4.0 are: personalized learning, remote learning opportunities, plethora of education tools, data at fingertips, easy and accurate assessment and project-based learning.

Education 5.0 starts "with humans, not technology." Its purpose refers explicitly to the specific outcomes that need to be achieved by humans as a result of a particular learning experience. "It is not about providing every learner with a laptop or a tablet. It is not about improving infrastructure and connectivity. It is not about developing digital tools and platforms. Instead, it is about preparing intellectually, socially and emotionally strong individuals, mindful of their health and personal development, as a general purpose, to start with." It is then followed by the appropriate "strategic, methodological and pedagogical approaches." It is bringing back motivation, creativity and joy of learning for digital equipment, infrastructure and platforms may still be crucial; however, they are enablers, not purposes themselves.

Putting all these together brings us to the future of work, revolving around work, technology, flexibility and people. Digital transformation (DX) and Industry 4.0 has changed the future of work (FoW), requiring a work transformation for an increasingly digital economy and work environment. The FoW is about "rethinking the way work gets done. It is a fundamental shift in the work model to one that fosters human-machine collaboration, enables new skills and worker experiences, and supports an intelligent and dynamic environment unbounded by time and physical space."

So, in the rebound, where is the country? What is our FoW strategy? Or are we trying to get back to the old norms of work, making us less competitive as we reopen the economy? According to the International Data Corp. (IDC), the evolution toward the new workplace and changing workforce is expected to "drive a total investment in future of work technologies of almost $656 billion in 2021. That's an increase of 17.4 percent over 2020. By 2024, investments in technologies supporting FoW initiatives are forecasted to exceed $1 trillion worldwide." Where are we here? Are CHEd, DoLE, Tesda and the business chambers discussing these or are we so preoccupied in having graduates of old degrees no longer needed in the FoW? Where will the jobs of the future come from and what will they look like?

Decent work had four pillars that were relevant 100 years ago. These were employment creation, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue. Today, there are five characteristics that will define FoW: distributed (humans are highly collaborative creatures); open (workers no longer spend their entire careers at the same company); human (age of automation, the service economy has exploded); neighborly and caring."

The change in the work landscape is happening. The Philippines cannot deny these and it is driven by millennials, mobility, collaboration and security. Take a look at accounting, the degree, all replaced by fintech! If CHEd is unable to grapple with the tidal wave, we will be producing future graduates no longer needed by the economy and that is bad investment for the country's future. We are not even talking of life learning programs in place. Indeed, "the skills needed to succeed in today's world and the future are curiosity, creativity, taking initiative, multi-disciplinary thinking and empathy."

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