NC mills feared as Tesda rolls out 30,000 scholarships for Zamboanga Peninsula


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IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay — Another form of diploma mill is feared, as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) is set to offer 30,000 scholarship grants for Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) this year.

“In the past, it was diploma mill. Now, we might be witnessing NC mills at the expense of taxpayers’ money channeled through Tesda,” John Mahusay, led convener of newly-formed Bantay Bayan (People’s Watch), said in an interview.

Diploma mill refers to schools that produced graduates who were not workplace-ready. Mahusay said it has been observed that more technical vocational graduates are “only competent in the paper but really knows nothing about the job and can be rightly considered as products of NC mills.”

A Tesda technical vocational graduate is issued a National Certificate (NC) for a particular qualification. “We are witnessing that and more NC mills will be produced as technical vocational institutes (TVIs) are making millions of pesos from Tesda by churning out so-called NC holders but are not really ready to join the workforce,” he said.

This is especially true, he alleged, in short-term NC program like the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) and Private Education Private Financial Assistance (Pesfa). TWSP provides immediate interventions to meet the need for highly critical skills.

The program was launched in May 2006 with funding from the Office of the President and mainstreamed in the regular budget in 2008. This program is a response to the clamor of industry to address the critical skills shortages in priority sectors, particularly the Business Process Outsourcing, metals and engineering, construction and tourism, among others. Pesfa program, on the other hand, is one form of assistance to students in private education under Republic Act (RA) 8645, otherwise known as “Expanded Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Act.”

The program is intended to area-based critical skills that respond to emerging and highly in-demand job requirements in the local and overseas labor market and shall be purposively driven in accordance with the Seek-Find-Train-Certify-Employ policy of Tesda. Some TVIs, he added, are even taking in “so-called scholars who are not qualified under the program.” For instance, he explained, under Pesfa, the beneficiary are high school graduates who have not gone to college. “But there are reports reaching us that some of the student-beneficiaries are college students,” he said.

This allegation has yet to be verified. “It seems the TVIs are making a killing on public funds channeled through Tesda to fund the technical vocational programs offered as scholarships to prospective student-beneficiaries,” he said, adding that “people’s vigilance is needed here.” In a Comprehensive Reform and Development Agenda (CRDA) Summit held last month at Springland Resort in Pagadian City, some 120 kilometers east from Zamboanga Sibugay, Tesda Secretary Guiling Mamondiong said that a total of 30,000 scholarship grants are allocated for Zamboanga Peninsula.

It is part of the CRDA of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that seeks to uplift the living condition of the people in Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, and Soccsksargen.

Mamondiong said the President had instructed him to formulate comprehensive reforms and development agenda for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and conflict-affected areas in the three regions to restore peace and order.

“This is the first time that a huge number of scholarships has been granted by Tesda to students in armed conflict affected areas,” Mamondiong said.

The formulated CRDA for the Armm and conflict-affected areas in the three regions is aimed at restoring peace and order.

The program is also the Commission on Higher Education’s (Ched) commitment and support to the action plan being set forth by President Duterte’s administration in improving the economic condition of conflict-affected areas under the CRDA.

The Tesda chief said he already talked to officials of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Ipil and Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay, and informed them that Tesda will tap their schools to make sure that they will be able to accommodate those who need skills training. “While the intent of the program is noble, we need to keep watch over its implementation to prevent the occurrence of NC mills,” said Mahusay

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