By Jenina P. Ibañez, October 24 2019; Business World

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THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry is set to pilot educational programs to reskill and upskill 1 million workers over five years to adapt to automation.

Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) President and Chief Executive Officer Rey C. Untal said in an interview on Monday that he wants the industry’s upskilling program to exceed the 100,000 per year employment growth target.

“Why one million? We also want to get ahead of the curve. We don’t want to just meet what our growth trajectory is. We’re saying: if we will aspire for a program, then we might as well exceed what we are shooting for,” he said.

Upskilling and reskilling includes workers already employed in the IT-BPM industry. The five-year timetable starts as soon as the program is launched.

Mr. Untal said that industry’s employment growth would mostly come from higher complexity work.

The IBPAP analysis found that the upskilling and reskilling of a million workers would require P40 billion in funding from government and foreign assistance.

Mr. Untal noted that a proposal approved in the House of Representatives and now being considered in the Senate to reduce corporate income tax rate and overhaul fiscal incentives sets aside P5 billion yearly for the skills upgrade program of the industry.

Programs would include partnering with universities to send IT-BPM employees to teach classes, help craft curricula based on industry needs, and invite lecturers to companies to learn best practices.

IBPAP also hopes to tap online training providers.

Mr. Untal said that meeting the employment growth target had been a challenge in the past two years, with rivals like India moving to upskill their employees ahead of the Philippines.

“The challenge will continue. But what we have seen is the pivot [to more complex functions] is already happening,” he said.

With upskilling, Mr. Untal said that the Philippines could increase jobs in the industry by attracting more contracts even as existing contracts shrink due to automation. Employees that lose jobs can be moved to new contracts as companies diversify their portfolios and retrain workers.

Mr. Untal said that talent and the right business environment is key to attracting potential investors. The industry targets to have 15% of the global market.

Mr. Untal said that IBPAP plans to sign a memorandum of agreement with an agency on Oct. 29 to formalize an arrangement to make available training opportunities for employees and future employees in the industry.

The industry recorded $24.8 billion in revenue 2018, about six percent more than the previous year’s $23.4 billion. Last year’s growth was faster than the 2.18% increase recorded in 2017, but still short of the nine percent annual revenue growth target in the IBPAP 2022 road map.

The industry also had 1.23 million direct employees last year, about five percent from 2017 but below the eight percent annual road map target.

IBPAP will be releasing its recalibrated road map targets during its International Innovation Summit on Nov. 12 at Manila Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. Plenary session topics include demystifying digital transformation, establishing lifelong learning and employability, and legislative priorities.