MANILA – With businesses struggling to keep their heads above water and more people losing their jobs as a result due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Senator Sonny Angara on Sunday said the reskilling and upskilling of workers is now more important than ever.

“During this pandemic, many businesses have to cut costs or start exploring new ways of making money. We cannot operate on a business as usual basis anymore,” Angara said.

Angara noted that unemployment hit a high of 17.7 percent in April this year.

“That’s over 7.3 million Filipinos who need jobs,” he said. “This is why we have been pushing for the upskilling of our workforce towards competencies that are required by employers and a lot of these are digital. These are the two terms that many of us will hear a lot these days.”

For many establishments, Angara said reskilling would be the quickest and most cost-efficient way to get their employees back to work.

There are jobs that probably will no longer be required and new ones that will open up once the economy is back on track.

For the most part, Angara said reskilling the workforce will be fairly easy and inexpensive.

“There will be adjustments in salaries for sure, but what is important to many people at this time is to have a continuous and stable source of income,” Angara said.

He said there will also be a significant segment of the workforce that will require upskilling, especially now that everything is shifting towards online and digital.

Even before the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Angara has been advocating for digital transformation in the Philippines as a way to prepare the government, businesses and labor in coping with the rapidly changing world.

Angara has filed two bills: Senate Bill 1469 or the National Digital Careers Act and Senate Bill 1470 or the National Digital Transformation Act.

“Unlike traditional jobs, many of which are now deemed non-essential, digital careers will always be around and we should take advantage of this. We will work with the Department of Education and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) to provide the necessary digital skills training so our ‘kababayans’ will be able to avail of these employment opportunities,” Angara said.

Some of the common digital careers that are sought after are: web development and design; online teaching and tutoring; content creation; digital marketing; mobile app development; search engine optimization; web research, business intelligence and data analytics; transcription and data entry; customer service and technical support; human resource management and systems; and medical coding, billing and other health IT services.

“Our education system is undergoing a major overhaul due to the new normal and tech will play a major role here. We should start incorporating digital skills in the curriculum of our students as early as primary school so that they will have access to more opportunities by the time they graduate or even if they fail to complete their education for whatever reason,” Angara said. (PR)