By US News Agency / Asian

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) on Tuesday said it will spend the bulk of foreign grants to projects that address unemployment problem in Mindanao and the low absorption rates of technical-vocational graduates in the region to the workforce.

TESDA director general Joel Villanueva said the agency is now identifying key employment generation sectors (KEGS) in the Southern Philippines, as well as determine the kind of assistance needed by different TESDA centers in the area to further improve their capability to produce competent technical-vocational graduates.

“We will help the region produce globally-proficient tech-voc graduates, and entrepreneurs, among others. We will also continue to support and strengthen the programs and activities of TESDA centers in Mindanao particularly the community-based and enterprise-based projects,” Villanueva said.

“We will prioritize Mindanao in the efforts of TESDA to seek foreign grants that will help us better carry out our mission and goal in accordance to the development and poverty alleviation agenda of the Aquino administration,” he said.

Villanueva said that TESDA is working on clinching grants from the United Nations (UN) and German non-government organizations, among other sources.

He said “preliminaries” are ongoing between TESDA and various organizations giving these grants.

Villanueva leads TESDA officials in the 5th Tuna Skills Olympics in General Santos City. The event is part of the two-day Hotel and Restaurant Services Skills Competition at the KCC Mall Convention Center in General Santos City sponsored by the agency.

This event will be participated by various secondary, tech-voc, and higher education institutions of Regions X, XI, and XII.

The contest is focused on qualifications under the Hotel and Restaurant Services.

The industries which are in need of skilled workers in the country today include agri-businesses such as crop production, aquaculture, rice machinery, animal production, and horticulture; Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), which include contact services, medical transcription, and voice and non-voice call centers; and Creative Industries, which include 3D animations, visual graphics, and game development, manufacturing, tourism and wellness and the construction sector.

“These are the sectors where we would want to give our focus with regards to funding,” Villanueva said adding that the highest demand rest on agri-business.

TESDA said that aside from having one of the highest unemployment level in the country, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the lowest absorption rates of tech-voc graduates among the regions in the country, with Region IV-B ((Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) following close behind.

Figures released by the agency showed that from 2008 to 2009, out of the more than 740, 000 TESDA scholars nationwide, only 113, 710 got employed after graduation.