READY TO HELP OFWS. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Secretary Isidro Lapeña says the agency is very ready to provide scholarships and training to returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in a telephone interview on Friday (Feb. 14, 2020). Lapeña said TESDA has assisted more than 13,000 OFWs in 2019, and has increased its scholarship budget and number of training centers to accommodate more trainees. (PNA file photo by Cristina Arayata

MANILA — Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) scare and the possibility that many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may opt to return or be repatriated, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) said it could accommodate many OFWs in its training and scholarship programs.

“We are very ready for the arrival of OFWs. We have training (courses) prepared for them,” TESDA Secretary Isidro Lapeña told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a telephone interview on Friday.

Lapeña noted that for 2020, the agency has increased its budget for Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP), from PHP2.7 billion in 2019 to PHP3.1 billion. Further, TESDA will open at least 43 additional training facilities nationwide this year.

The agency has assisted more than 13,000 OFWs in 2019. Lapeña said TESDA can accommodate even double of that figure.

“Yes, we can accommodate even 26,000. Our budget for TWSP alone had a PHP400,000 increase. We still have other scholarship programs such as STEP (Special Training for Employment Program), PESFA (Private Education Student Financial Assistance), and UAQTEA (Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act),” he clarified.

For 2020, TESDA has allotted PHP1.4 billion for STEP; PHP200 million for PESFA; and PHP2.9 billion for UAQTEA. TESDA’s overall budget for 2020 is PHP12.974 billion.

The training courses, Lapeña said, would reskill the OFWs, whether they would decide to go back abroad, find a job here, or put up a business.

Among the courses being offered for returning OFWs are carpentry, scaffolding, heavy equipment operation, construction, housekeeping, hairdressing, caregiving, wellness massage, bread and pastry, cookery, basic bookkeeping, basic computer operation, and welding.

Lapeña said many women excel in welding, and companies are commenting that women’s works are polished.

“We also offer language skills training in Mandarin, Nihongo, and Arabic, to help them communicate better when they go abroad,” he added.

Lapeña shared that he already informed the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) that there are opportunities here for the OFWs, opportunities to make their lives more comfortable.

More training centers

Apart from the budget increase, Lapeña said he is confident many OFWs can be accommodated as TESDA would open new training facilities in 2020.

“From 361 training facilities last year, we target to have 404 this year, so there would be at least 43 facilities that would open in 2020. Most of these are in the provinces. I have instructed our provincial officers to have a building with two to three rooms for this purpose,” he said.

Lapeña noted that aside from TESDA’s training centers, there are accredited Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) where the OFWs could avail of the scholarship or training programs.

As of December 2019, there are 3,983 accredited TVIs nationwide, he said. (PNA)