Saint Paul University Philippines Cagayan State University University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao Isabela State University Saint Mary’s University
Unemployment or underemployment of BS Computer Science and BS Information Technology graduates is attributed to a host of factors, foremost of which is the mismatch between the competencies acquired by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) graduates from the academe and those required by industries
To determine the profile of industries employing ICT graduates in Region 2 in terms of ◦ location; ◦ classification; ◦ number of ICT graduates employed; ◦ number of years in operation; ◦ nature; ◦ recruitment; ◦ hiring practices. To determine the competencies acquired from the academic preparation of ICT graduates in Region 2 as perceived by the industry as to: ◦ hard skills and ◦ soft skills. To identify the factors accounting for the absorption/non-absorption of the ICT graduates in Region 2. To determine the employment conditions of the ICT graduates in the industries in terms of: ◦ rank ◦ employment status. To determine the implications of the results of the study: on existing CHED policies, standards, and guidelines; on the ICT curricula; on the quality and supply of ICT graduates from Higher Education Institutions in Region 2; and, on the industries that hired them.
Research Method = Descriptive Data gathering instrument = questionnaire Other supplementary methods = FGD, documentary analysis Total Population = 342 Sample = 115
Industry Profile of Respondent Business Establishments/Institutions ◦ Location and Classification of Business Establishments/ Institutions Employing ICT Graduates Of the 115 business establishments / institutions, 44 or 38.26 percent are computer services; 15 or 13.04 percent, banking, finance, and insurance; 13 or 11.30 percent, retail trade; and 12 or 10.43 percent, personal and other services. The rest of the business establishments / institutions are classified as wholesale trade; government institutions; communication services; accommodations, cafés, and restaurants; education, training institutions; health, community services; electricity, gas, water supply; and, agriculture, forestry, fishing.
Number of ICT Graduates Employed One hundred four (104) or 90.43 percent of the 115 respondent business establishments / institutions employ at most 10 ICT graduates only, broken down as follows: Cagayan, 56 or 90.32 percent; Isabela, 28 or 87.50 percent; and, Nueva Vizcaya, 20 or 95.24 percent. The rest of the business establishments / institutions employ more than 10 ICT graduates.
Number of Years in Operation Majority (81 or 70.44 percent) of the 115 business establishments / institutions surveyed have been in operation only for at most 10 years. In Cagayan, 40 or 64.52 percent of the business establishments / institutions fall within this category. In Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya, 29 or 90.63 percent and 15 or 71.43 percent, respectively, fall within this category. The rest of the business establishments / institutions fall within the remaining categories of 11 – 15 years and 21 years and above.
Nature of the Business Establishment / Institution As gleaned from the table, majority (73 or 63.48 percent) of the respondent business establishments / institutions are ICT-related. In Cagayan, 33 or 53.33 percent are ICT- related, likewise with 23 or 71.88 percent of the business establishments / institutions in Isabela. Seventeen (17) or 80.95 percent of the business establishments / institutions surveyed in Nueva Vizcaya are also ICT- related. The rest are non-ICT related business establishments / institutions.
Recruitment Practices The respondent business establishments/institutions’ three most common ways of recruiting ICT graduates are through walk-in applicants; referrals of employees; and advertisement through print, broadcast, and online media
Hiring Practices Ranked according to their prevalence, the most common hiring practices by the respondent business establishments/institutions include the following: applicant submits application letter, undergoes interview, submits clearances (NBI, police, etc.), takes practical examination, written examination, and submits a medical certificate. The sequence of requiring the ICT applicants to undergo these procedures may vary from business establishment/institution to another.
Hard Skills Categorized by type of hard skills, all the respondent business establishments / institutions in the three provinces of Region 2 generally perceive the ICT graduates employed by them to possess the important hard skills except to customize packed software applications for clients which they perceive as moderately important only.
Soft Skills The respondent business establishments / institutions perceive the ICT graduates employed by them to possess three very important soft skills, namely: relate to clients on a business level, providing advice to clients, and demonstrate ability to understand how the organization works. Categorized by location, all the respondent business establishments/ institutions perceive the ICT graduates employed by them to possess all the soft skills which they consider as important in relation to the jobs for which they are hired.
Factors Accounting For The Absorption/Non Absorption Of The ICT Graduates In Region 2 * Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Higher Education Institutions in Region 2 As Sources of Hired ICT Employees - On the whole, the respondent business establishments / institutions prefer to hire ICT graduates from the following three Higher Education Institutions in the region: Saint Paul University, University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao, and Cagayan State University, all located in Cagayan.
Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Courses in Hiring ICT Employees Fifty seven (57) or 49.57 percent of the 115 total respondents have no particular preference as to what ICT course the graduates have finished. However, forty five (45) or 39.13 percent of the employers prefer graduates of Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (BSIT), with graduates of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (BSCS) as the second preference.
Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Gender in Hiring ICT Employees The respondent business establishments / institutions in Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya have no particular preference with respect to the gender of the ICT employees they hire, but those in Isabela prefer female ICT graduates. On the whole however, the respondent business establishments / institutions are not particular about the gender of the ICT employees they hire as expressed by 65 or 56.52 percent of them.
Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Religious Affiliation in Hiring ICT EmployeesThe respondent business establishments / institutions who are particular with the religious affiliation of their ICT employees prefer to hire Roman Catholics. This explains in part why they prefer graduates of Saint Paul University, University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao, Saint Mary’s University, and University of La Salette. However, majority (70 or 60.87 percent) of them have no particular preference for the religious affiliation of the ICT graduates that they hire.
Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Ethnic Background in Hiring ICT EmployeesMajority of the respondent business establishments / institutions are not particular with regard to the ethnic background of the ICT graduates that they hire, as indicated by 72 or 62.61 percent of them. However as gleaned in the table above, the business establishments/ institutions in Isabela are particular with the ethnic background of the ICT graduates which they recruit. Isabela is predominantly Ilocano and Tagalog speaking, with some Ibanag speaking communities.
Preference of Business Establishments / Institutions for Particular Civil Status in Hiring ICT Employees In general, the respondent business establishments / institutions prefer to hire single ICT graduates as indicated by 59 or 51.30 percent of them, but 5 or 4.35 percent prefer married applicants. As gleaned from the table, 51 or 44.35 percent of the respondent business establishments / institutions have no particular preference as to the civil status of the ICT graduates which they hire.
In terms of Rank: Rank-and-file (1-2 ICT graduates) : Out of 72 Respondents: Cagayan = 21; Isabela = 7; Nueva Vizcaya = 3 First-line Managers (1-2 ICT graduates): Out of 20 Respondents: Cagayan = 7; Isabela = 1; Nueva Vizcaya = 6 Middle Managers (1-2 ICT graduates): Out of 15 Respondents: Cagayan = 7; Isabela = 1; Nueva Vizcaya = 4 Top Managers (1-2 ICT graduates): Out of 8 Respondents: Cagayan = 3; Isabela = 1; Nueva Vizcaya = 3
In terms of Employment Status: Contractual: (Out of 45 ICT graduates) Cagayan = 24; Isabela = 4; Nueva Vizcaya = 9 Probationary: (Out of 19 ICT graduates) Cagayan = 7; Isabela = 5; Nueva Vizcaya = 4 Regular/Permanent: (Out of 51 graduates) Cagayan = 17; Isabela = 14; Nueva Vizcaya = 6
On CHED Policies, Standards, and Guidelines The Commission on Higher Education Memorandum Order (CMO) in force which produced the ICT graduates who participated in this survey was the CM0 #25, series of 2000. Article I, Section 1 of the CMO envisions the ICT graduate to: have undergone training in abstract and analytical processes; have developed personal and social values; have acquired technical skills; be grounded in appropriate concepts and principles; and be adaptive to the work environment.
Results of this study point to some deficiencies in theabovementioned competencies which a graduate should haveacquired from the ICT course. This may imply that the HigherEducation Institutions have not really given serious consideration ofthe CMO#25 provisions to be able to raise the chances foremployment of their ICT graduates. This was verbalized by therepresentatives of business establishments/institutions during theround-table discussions held in Tuguegarao City, Echague(Isabela), and Bayombong (Nueva Vizcaya) wherein they cited inparticular the weaknesses of the ICT graduates in hard and softskills, especially programming and application systemsdevelopment, human relations skills and communication skills.The same weaknesses were cited by Gilleard, when he said, “…nomatter how technically brilliant you are, even in the IT industry youneed good interpersonal skills."
As expressed in self-administered interview guides given to the heads of the ICT programs of the top three Higher Education Institutions from where the business establishments prefer to hire their ICT employees, they have adequate laboratory facilities and library resources to support instruction, faculty that are educationally qualified with a few having industry certification and immersion.
On the ICT Curricula The curriculum is the blue-print of a plan on how to develop the competencies of the ICT graduate to make him/her employable by Industry, and to make him/her locally and globally competitive. If there are some deficiencies in the curriculum, these would invariably show in its graduates. The deficiencies of the ICT graduates in terms of the hard and soft skills which they are supposed to have acquired before graduation, reveals a weakness in the curriculum that needs to be addressed. In an interview conducted with the Heads of the ICT programs of the top three schools from which employers prefer to get the ICT that they hire, they claim that at least half of their faculty are graduates of Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) or Master in Information Technology (MIT) in compliance with CHED-CMO #25.
The study team also reviewed the curricula of the ICTprograms of the said schools to verify whether there are indeed subjects that develop the competencies of theICT students as envisioned in CMO #25, series of 2000. The study team noted that the curricula differed amongthe top three schools especially in terms of their freeelectives, although the minimum mandatory subjectswere included. In particular the curricula of the top threeschools were able to satisfy the provisions of Article VI,Section 16, in terms of basic non-ITE core topics, basicITE core topics, computer science and IT topics.
The student On-the-Job Training (OJT) is one of the provisions being implemented by tertiary schools to prepare the ICT graduate for the world of work. In fact, if the OJT is well placed, it may serve as an avenue for the ICT student to be eventually absorbed in Industry. However, student On-the-Job Training (OJT) is not explicit in the curricula of some of the top three schools identified as sources of the ICT employees of Industry. For the schools that do not have specific provisions for OJT, they have integrated this in the subject Systems Analysis and Design where the students are required to look for a business establishment / institution where they can do research for the development of a proposed application software which they would eventually turn over for its use as a token of gratitude for allowing the ICT student to comply with the requirements of the said subject.
Industry immersion is nil due to the absence of a real ICT Industryin the region. However, some of the schools such as Saint PaulUniversity Philippines, University of Saint Louis Tuguegarao,University of La Salette, and Saint Mary’s University havesucceeded in establishing linkages with ICT companies in theUnited States, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, India, and Koreawhere these schools send their faculty for immersion and ICTstudents for OJT. These ICT companies however conduct properscreening of student applicants for OJT through local recruitmentagencies and only those who pass are accepted for 6 monthsimmersion. For the lucky ICT students who qualify, they shoulderexpenses for passport, visa and round-trip air fare, but they receivemonthly allowances from the foreign companies that accept them.
Quality and Supply of ICT Graduates From Higher Education Institutions in Region 2 The representatives from the academe claim that they do train their ICT students to acquire the hard and soft skills needed by the business establishments/institutions. However, the results of this study reveal that the ICT graduates are short of the required competencies in terms of hard and soft skills, which they are supposed to have acquired before graduation. Producing ICT graduates without establishing mechanisms/ procedures for assessing their competence will certainly affect their quality as well as their number. Or, even if such mechanisms / procedures are available the extent of their implementation will affect the quality and supply of ICT graduates. This implies that there would be more ICT graduates who may lack the confidence to get employed immediately upon graduation due to inadequate hard and soft skills.
On The Industries That Hired The ICT Graduates The study reveals that the business establishments/institutions generally do not hire ICT graduates on the basis of the ICT course they finished, their gender/sex, civil status, religion, and ethnic background. Absorbing ICT graduates who are not adequately prepared with the competencies required by the business establishments/institutions would mean additional cost for retraining or retooling them. That these business establishments/institutions have to spend to retool the ICT graduate hired by them even with inadequate hard and soft skills, was actually expressed during the industry-academe round- table discussion by an employer who claims that he sends his ICT employees to Manila for training or invites a trainor from Manila to empower his ICT employees. This feedback affirms earlier findings in the study conducted by Qayyum Parker (2003) who cited that one of the obstacles to skills development include the high cost of training learners, and the risk involved if learners fail to meet training objectives or leave the country once training is completed.
The Information and Communications Technology Industry has been developing very rapidly to the point that, either the academe or business establishments/institutions can hardly cope with these developments, causing a possible mismatch between the competencies and skills of ICT graduates as acquired through their academic preparations and those needed by business establishments/institutions that employed them. This study was therefore undertaken in Region 2 to verify empirically whether this mismatch between the acquired competencies of the ICT graduates from Higher Education Institutions within the region and the competencies needed by business establishments/institutions in the region that employed them does exist.
The following conclusions are arrived at, drawn from the findings of this study: No real ICT industry exists in Region 2. The bulk of employers of ICT graduates are establishments/institutions located mainly in Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya that are engaged in IT-related business activities, most especially computer services. These business establishments/institutions that have been mostly in existence for 5 years or less employ at most 10 ICT graduates recruited mostly as walk-in applicants who submit application letters and hired after demonstrating their hard skills. The business establishments/institutions consider important the following hard skills which the ICT graduates must possess: programming, software installation, hardware troubleshooting and maintenance, installing computer networks, systems and database administration, and systems integration.
The following soft skills are important to the business establishments/institutions, which ICT graduates must likewise possess to complement their hard skills: communication skills, human relations skills, understanding the nature and operation of the organization where they are connected, and understanding the needs of customers/clients. The ICT graduates have not adequately acquired through their academic preparation the hard and soft skills desired by the business establishments/institutions that hired them. This implies that the Higher Education Institutions where these ICT graduates came from have not exposed them extensively to in-school and OJT experiences that would allow them to develop these hard and soft skills, although these institutions have complied with the minimum requirements of CHED-CMO #25 for which reason their programs have been issued recognition. This would also reflect on the curriculum that the ICT graduates have pursued in their chosen careers, which may not really contain all the required hard and soft skills to be developed and therefore need to be revisited. Because of this problem, there is a need to retool the ICT graduates to fit the demands of the jobs for which they have been hired and this would entail additional cost on the part of the business establishments/institutions.
The business establishments/institutions do not have a particular preference for certain ICT graduates, neither are they particular of the sex, civil status, ethnic background, or religion of the ICT graduates they hired. However, whether it is purely coincidental or implied, the number one Higher Education Institution from which the business establishments/institutions prefer to hire their ICT employees is a Catholic school perhaps because of the underlying presumption that they have desirable work values and attitudes. The size and volume of business of the establishments/institutions limit the number of ICT graduates that they are capable of hiring, most of which number 10 or less, contractual, and belonging to the rank-and-file.
The faculty teaching ICT courses should continue to improve their competencies, not only by earning the appropriate master’s degrees, but by attending trainings and seminars to update themselves on the latest trends in Information and Communications Technology, obtaining industry certifications, and immersing themselves in the ICT Industry. The heads of the ICT programs should revisit their curricula and determine in which subject areas the hard and soft skills of their graduates need strengthening based on the results of this study in order to increase their chances for employment.
The heads of the ICT programs should consider adding enrichment courses or free electives that would further develop the teamwork skills of the ICT graduates, such as Human Relations, and provide them with managerial and entrepreneurial skills through the inclusion of management and entrepreneurship in the ICT curricula which would be useful if the graduate decides to establish his/her own ICT – related business. The Higher Education Institutions should consider institutionalizing and strengthening their On-the-Job Training for their ICT students both locally and abroad through well defined policies and procedures and industry linkages thereby providing them with ample experiences that would hone their hard and soft skills.
The Higher Education Institutions should institute mechanisms and procedures which would effectively ascertain that its ICT graduates have acquired the hard and soft skills needed by business establishments/institutions that would eventually hire them, such as conducting both theoretical and practical examinations to test their hard and soft skills, and requiring those who do not pass to take remedial lessons. The Higher Education Institutions should establish strong linkages with chambers of commerce, at least locally, and initiate periodic dialogues with them in order to get feedback on what competencies they require the ICT graduates to possess in order to get hired by them.
The Commission on Higher Education should consider making Industry immersion of the faculty mandatory in future CMOs as a requirement for the recognition of the ICT courses of the Higher Education Institution. The Commission on Higher Education should consider supporting financially or sponsoring pre-certification trainings of both ICT faculty and students to prepare them for Industry certification. The ICT faculty’s passing the Industry certifications such as those given by Microsoft, CISCO, Philnits, and the like, will certainly raise the quality of the graduates produced by the school. For the students, passing the Industry certification would earn them a valuable qualification which is recognized and required by business establishments/institutions worldwide.