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Remodeling the apprenticeship program

We’d like to put up an apprenticeship program to train a pool of technical workers that can be hired for our factory. Aside from those provided and required under the Labor Code, how can we make the program both a mutually-beneficial program for us and the apprentices? — Rainbow Connection.

The apprenticeship program under the Labor Code bears many limitations; in the opinion of some people managers, it is outdated. We need to understand that the Labor Code is intended to promote the interests of the workers, who could be exploited by employers. That’s the reason why an apprenticeship program and its mechanics must be approved by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Not only that. The program cannot be limited to six months. So, if you would like to train apprentices you must bear with the requirements of DoLE, no matter how obsolete they are.

As part of management, you have no choice but to comply with the law even as you carry the burden of training the apprentices so they are ready when you need them. In relation to an apprenticeship program, you may have to consider also the “learnership” and the “dual training system” which are administered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.

The rules provided by DoLE and TESDA are clear enough. They could be easily complied with even without the help of a lawyer.

Aside from having highly-trained job applicants ready to be deployed and perform the job, you can maximize the benefits of an apprenticeship program by considering the following strategies:

One, make the apprenticeship system results-based. Let the apprentices know that they must pass a written test and undergo on-the-job training. If they pass, they rise on the list of candidates for regular posts. I would like to emphasize the term “regular posts,” as most people would not want to be hired as contractual workers or assigned as employees of manpower service agencies.

Two, attract apprentices with a reasonable cash allowance. The Labor Code requires the payment of not less than 75% of the applicable minimum wage. Why not increase it to say 85% or 90% to attract good apprentices? But don’t match the current minimum wage, to avoid complicating the situation. If you do this, ensure that the apprentices are making progress on their learning targets daily.

Three, integrate the apprenticeship with your Corporate Social Responsibility program. If not, the apprenticeship can also be a part of the human resource (HR) community relations program. This requires, however, that all, if not the majority of the apprentices are residents of the same community where your office or factory is located. Imagine the mileage with the residents that you can earn with an initiative like this.

Four, strengthen partnerships with academic institutions. You can partner with schools like Don Bosco Technical College or the Dualtech Technical Center, which was patterned after the German system. Both schools offer expertise, basic equipment and tools, and values training, making their graduates likely to be employment-ready.

Last, make your apprenticeship program stand out. Strive to be unique in the industry. The apprenticeship program under the Labor Code and other related legislation has its own minimum requirements. If you exceed these requirements for the benefit of the job applicants with their full understanding and consent, then I don’t see any reason why DoLE or TESDA would not approve.

The war on talent applies to everything, even to vocational jobs. You don’t simply hire people off the street. There must be a comprehensive effort on the part of your HR department to devise a system that helps you gauge potential candidates long before they are hired for regular jobs.

Don’t assign your apprentices to manpower service agencies. Around 95% of workers don’t want to work for those subcontractors as they provide only the minimum wage and benefits required by law. Besides, what’s the use of your apprenticeship program if you simply make them work for a subcontractor?

The trouble is that these subcontractors don’t want to spend money on training people, or nurturing them until their retirement.

Training of apprentices should be carefully targeted and professionally done. Let the workers know this. When apprentices know their development is being invested in, they will respond accordingly. Management kindness begets worker loyalty and hard work.


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