TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines?Butchers and electricians trained by the city government for jobs in Australia and Canada are being given additional competitive edge: enhanced skills in written and spoken English.
For at least eight Saturdays, graduates of the city?s various community-based skills training are to undergo module-based lectures on basic English to help improve their listening, speaking and writing abilities before their deployment abroad, according to Darwin Suyat, head of the city?s special programs division.
In partnership with the Department of Education, the Technical Skills Development Authority (Tesda) and the University of Mindanao-Tagum College, the city government on Saturday launched its Skilled Workers English Enhancement Program (Sweep) in a bid to boost the global competitiveness of its overseas-bound locally trained skilled workers, Suyat said.
?We want to equip our local workers not only the hands-on skills related to their respective fields but also the basic ability to communicate using the language of their employers and their workplace,? Suyat told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The city has been deploying locally trained electricians and butchers to countries like Canada, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, through its skills-training program given for free by the local government.
To date, 35 butchers have been deployed to Australia, with the average salary ranging from a low of P40,000 to a high of P200,000, the city?s public employment service office said.
Suyat said Sweep was first introduced as seminar-type sessions back in 2007 but died out due to lukewarm implementation. He said the city wanted to enhance the program by pumping in more support and supervision.
The program?s teaching manpower consists of four English professors from UM Tagum College who prepared the modules similar to the proficiency areas covered by the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, said Anwar Maadel of the city?s literacy council.
?The mayor had found out that in 2010, our workers? IELTS results were very low so he wanted to help improve it through Sweep,? Maadel said.
Being a refresher course on English, the program has been ?really a big help to graduates like us who have not used the language for over a decade already,? said 33-year old Ian Sherwin Negro, a civil engineering senior who dropped out of college in 2001 to marry his girlfriend.
?Our memory on English is dull already?Sweep could help refresh it? Besides, it?s for free,? Negro, who used to work for a banana plantation in Apokon village while completing butchery training, told the Inquirer at the sidelines of the program?s re-launching at UM Tagum College?s audio-visual room.
Suyat said the city government has set aside P50,000 for the honoraria of the teacher-facilitators, while Dep Ed would field 11 supervisors and other officials to evaluate the conduct and progress of the program, with an eye on improving it, city schools division superintendent Nenita Lumaad said.
Suyat said each participant would be asked for a ?little counterpart,? a P150 fee for the modules, which they can use to study at home.
The program?s participants are divided into batches of 35-50 to ensure effective teaching. Pre-tests and post-tests would then be administered to measure and assess the participants? progress.
Maadel said each student would be required to complete a 32-hour course divided into eight consecutive Saturdays or four hours per session. He said the time frame of graduation could vary, depending on how ?slow or fast they learn.?
For Michael Linogao, Sweep could help him familiarize with the IELTS, a test that Canada-bound workers, like him, should hurdle. The 41-year-old refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) graduate has worked in Saudi Arabia for several years, ?but we?re not much required to learn English and to take the IELTS.?
Participants in the Sweep like Negro and Linogao would be taught about the basics of the British variant of the English language, its forms, intonations and others, apart from the usual parts of the English speech, according to UMTC professor Bryan Cubelo.
?Learning the (English) language, especially the British variant, which is being used in Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand, is really very important if we study or work in these countries?.And since most of us Filipinos are not familiar with the language, a training such as this is very useful,? said Cubelo, one of the teachers tapped to help in the program.
Fely Rabaca, the UMTC assistant vice president, said the program has been the institution?s commitment to helping the local government provide adequate skills to overseas-bound Tagum workers.
?The program really helps improve our skilled workers? functional literacy, or their ability to use and apply their basic knowledge and skills on English, as they work not only abroad but also here in the country,? said Norma Salcedo, head of the national literacy council, who graced the program launching on January 31.
The program?s lecture proper for the first batch started February 5 and is expected to end March 26. Classes are being done at the UMTC Mabini campus? audio-visual room in Barangay (village) Magugpo Poblacion.