(Metro Manila, Philippines) Based on a National Senior High School (SHS) Tracer Study conducted by the Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD) in 2019 and 2020, nearly 83% of the SHS graduates in 2018 pursued higher education, 10.22% of them got their first job, and only 1.30% and 0.42% pursued business and middle-level skills development, respectively.

For the remaining portion, 5.39% of the pioneer SHS graduates did not pursue any of those curriculum exits.

Students, indeed, have free will to choose whatever plans they have in mind and careers they want to pursue. However, when the pandemic hit the country and unexpectedly changed the academic set-up, the supposed plan of some students has directed to another path.

Despite education being imperative to pursue, a 19-year-old SHS graduate Joaquin Simon Verdulaga wholly decided not to seek a college degree after graduating. The main reasons are the challenges that distance learning brought— one of which is financial insufficiency.

“Naging challenge po namin is financial po and mahirap po ‘yung buhay pandemic. Marami pong distractions sa bahay, and then may mga gawain pa sa bahay kaya ‘di ko po gaano nagagawa ‘yung mga schoolwork, tapos kasabay po ng gawain sa bahay,” said Joaquin.

According to Joaquin, his family completely depends on his father’s income as a factory worker during the peak of the pandemic. That is why it’s no doubt that a typical Filipino family like theirs experienced difficulties in terms of daily expenses.

Hence, in his desire not to burden his parents, he courageously took the risk of not continuing his studies even if he was uncertain of what the future will be like.

“Umaasa lang po kami sa work ng father ko, which is mahirap po kasi ‘di naman ganu’n kalakihan ang sahod. So, sabi ko po sa mama ko na i-try ko muna mag-work para makatulong sa bahay, para sa mga gastusin po,” he shared.

In an unpredicted time, his family members introduced to him the JobStart Program, the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) youth employability program.

With no second thought, he tried applying and was fortunately accepted as one of the 100 applicants who have been given an opportunity for career advancement.

When he was accepted, Joaquin, along with other JobStart beneficiaries, immediately proceeded to career orientation. Afterward, they took their 10-day Life Skills Training virtually in which they were introduced to workplace schemes.

After almost 2 weeks of online sessions, the labor department and Mandaluyong City’s Public Employment Service Office (PESO) arranged a job fair wherein all trainees participated.

Among the 5 companies he applied to, only one company has accepted Joaquin— the Astoria Plaza.

Then, JobStart beneficiaries that the renowned hotel has accepted underwent months of technical training. After this, they were immediately cruised to 2 months of internship.

Joaquin’s main job includes making the bed, cleaning the room, kitchen, and bath, and restocking all rooms daily.

Because of dedication and inherited hard work, Joaquin is one of those who were absorbed in Astoria Plaza and provided an opportunity that they can finally be called a “job.”

“Ako po ay isang Room Attendant sa Astoria. Kami po yung nagmi-maintain ng mga rooms para sa mga guests. At kami rin po nagpo-provide ng mga amenities at requests ng mga guests,” shared Joaquin.

According to Corporate Executive Housekeeping Supervisor Josefina B. Daguro, she has seen Joaquin’s enthusiasm to learn— the reason why she’d never heard any objection from him.

Because before becoming a room attendant, Joaquin was assigned first as a property custodian during his internship at the hotel, wherein he had literally experienced heavy workloads.

“They [Joaquin and other JobStart trainee] don’t mind about the time kahit na sobra na sa oras. Kaya siguro the time na kinulang kami ng staff kinailangan naming maghire, sila yung na-recommend,” Daguro uttered.

Joaquin’s supervisor gladly shares how JobStart Philippines Program helped them train and hire employees easefully.

Although he was assigned to a completely different role, Joaquin still opened his door to accept new opportunities and showed a willingness to grasp things beyond his knowledge.

“Ibang field ‘yung training nila pero nung ma-hire sila, ibang field yung kinapuntahan nila. Ang pinakaimportante du’n siguro yung openness nila na it’s a new responsibility, it’s a new job na kailangan kong matutunan and yung dream nila na magkaroon ng work,” said Joaquin’s supervisor.

As JobStart Philippines Program prepares young Filipinos for employment by providing youth with career coaching, life skills and technical training, and internships with partnered employers, Joaquin believes that the program really equipped him to become a job-ready.

“Tingin ko naman po job-ready na ako kasi nagagampanan ko naman ‘yung gawain ko nu’ng internship po namin at nagagawa ko nang maayos ‘yung ginagawa namin sa rooms…nang kami-kami lang kaya tingin ko job-ready na po kami,” he proudly expressed.

According to him, said DOLE’s program has bridged him to employers that could help him discover their potential and develop their skills.

At a young age, he knew now how to handle such situations attending to people’s concerns, and always reminding himself of staying calm when faced with difficulties.

But apart from these, Joaquin shared that JobStart didn’t only after skills enhancement, but they also provide financial assistance to its trainees.

He said, “Noon po kasi nanghihingi lang ako ng pera sa father ko kapag may kailangan kami sa school or sa bahay. Ngayon naman kaya ko na bilhin ‘yung mga gusto ko bilhin nang hindi na humihingi sa parents ko and kahit papano nakakabigay na din po ako sa kanila kahit maliit.”

It is the human tendency of planning things. But, sometimes, because of life’s odds and challenges, people have no choice but to accept sudden metamorphoses.

Just like Joaquin, the unexpected moment had led him to other paths. And instead of suffering a setback, he made use of this to create beautiful alterations.

Joaquin shared that he’s so much grateful because even if it’s only been a few years since the pandemic bit swept him away from his goal, he can clearly see that he’s far from the stain he had experienced before— with high hopes on its life’s kit.

“Sa DOLE po nagpapasalamat ako dahil nagkarooon po sila ng programang ito na tumutulong sa mga Pilipino na makakuha ng trabaho kahit na walang experience para makatulong sa [pamilya],” Joaquin uttered.

“At sa Astoria Plaza nagpapasalamat ako kasi nandyan po sila para turuan kami para mag-improve ‘yung skills namin at magampanan namin ‘yung ginagawa namin dito, at ginabayan nila kami sa internship namin,” he added.

END / Chris Agustin