Distinguished speakers and participants, a pleasant morning to you all. It is an honor to welcome you to the Philippines Future Skills Summit 2023. I thank Confexhub and eduCLaaS for working with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine Trade Training Center to bring this important conference to the Philippines. Indeed, a future-ready workforce is at the center of our national strategy for digital transformation.

Digital transformation is a compelling and vital change we must pursue amid the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or 4IR). 4IR—with the extraordinary technological advances it entails—creates new paradigms in the way we live, work, and interact. Embracing 4IR technologies is proving crucial to a post-pandemic future. Developments such as automation and digitalization hold immense potential to create new economic opportunities—boosting productivity at the workplace and generating more quality jobs.

Our government recognizes digital technology capabilities in the Philippines as critical to a sustainable post-COVID-19 economy. By positioning digital technology as an enabler, DTI has launched digital transformation initiatives, such as the Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI)-Driven Industrial Strategy 2022 to 2028; and the E-commerce Philippines 2022 Roadmap. These plans aim to help drive the Philippine digital economy to hit a Gross Merchandise Value of over USD100 billion by 2030.

Alongside our thrust for digital transformation are our innovation efforts. In partnership with UnionBank and Global Learning Solutions, we launched the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research in Laguna last September 2022. This AI research center is a hub where data scientists and researchers can perform collaborative AI R&D.

Our AI research center further supports the growth of the digital economy. It enables the development of new business ventures in trade, agriculture, manufacturing, and services. And it promotes entrepreneurship through cutting-edge digital technologies.

Complementary to the AI research center is an Industry 4.0 Pilot Factory, which will host pilot, demonstration, and learning laboratories for relevant technologies. These technologies include robotics, intelligent manufacturing, and cyber-physical systems. This Pilot Factory—to be set up in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig—will be a space where businesses, researchers, and universities can have hands-on lessons on robotics, automation, and smart factory, among others. We will soon bring the equipment donated by Siemens of Germany into this facility.

Yet adopting 4IR technologies and embracing innovation are only the means. Part of our overall commitment is to enable our businesses—especially micro, small, and medium enterprises, as the backbone of our economy—to embrace digital

transformation. Digital transformation enables enterprises to operate efficiently, reduce costs, reach bigger markets, and earn profits. Digital systems developed by tech startups, for example, are already connecting sari-sari stores to manufacturers and financing firms. They can accumulate cash flow data on sales and other transactions, and use digitized enterprise data for credit scoring, and providing access to cash flow-based credit.

DTI will further help onboard businesses to e-commerce. E-commerce enables businesses to expand and adapt to changing times and reach markets beyond their geographic location. DTI and the Department of Information and Communications Technology are launching an e-commerce platform to give businesses a wider market access and get paid digitally. Our CTRL+BIZ: Reboot Now! program provides necessary training on e-commerce, e-payment, and digital marketing.

Finally, for the people that breathe life into enterprises, industries, and our economy, we place human capital development at the center of harnessing digital transformation. It is necessary—and a matter of survival for companies in the 4IR era—that employees are equipped with adequate and responsive digital skills. Many workers must also speak the “digital language,” regardless of their competency level.

To ensure organizations and local governments realize the value of adopting and investing in digital literacy, DTI, together with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA, launched the Philippine Skills Framework Initiative. This initiative seeks to create a framework to upskill, reskill, and prepare our human capital—our workforce— to respond and adapt to the digital economy. This skills framework aims to develop a common language that employers, workers, and training institutions will share to address job-skills mismatch. It will enable employers to identify necessary competencies for the workforce and serve as the basis for strengthening school curricula.

To date, three industry-specific skills frameworks have been launched: Supply Chain and Logistics, Game Development, and Digital Arts and Animation. Two cross-sectoral skills frameworks on Business Development and Human Capital Development have also been formulated. These are complemented by DTI’s training sessions, attended by almost 23,000 participants last year.

DTI seeks to prepare our workforce for jobs where they can excel, jobs that employers need, and those that respond to future demands. In the World Economic Forum last month, I participated in a session on the Jobs Consortium-Towards a New Vision for the Future of Work. This session highlighted how digital technologies will redefine jobs in the next several years. With 4IR, new jobs will emerge due to new technologies, and tapping these opportunities requires increasing investments in skills development.

Current systems of learning and signaling job fit need reinforcement to provide workers with the agility of lifelong learners. A 2021 McKinsey report found that at least four of ten companies are experiencing skills gaps and expect this to continue in the next two to five years. We, therefore, must shift to a skills-based system.

And so, DTI focuses on skills matching and upskilling in preparing for future jobs. This effort will also empower enterprises, including agribusiness, creative industries, construction, and tourism, to cite a few examples. To minimize skills mismatch at the sub- national level, we are working with the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in pursuing the National Skills Mapping and Survey on Human Resource Development. We also promote academe-industry matching, fostering university students’ interest in future-ready programs.

These initiatives of DTI and other partners are among our ways to help achieve a strong

and dynamic workforce for the country’s inclusive and sustainable growth. In upskilling the workforce, our government cannot carry on the work independently. We need a whole-of- society approach—with government, academe, businesses, and civil society working together.

This summit provides an excellent opportunity for the participants to learn from each other. Please share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas on upskilling our workforce, strengthening our curricular and vocational courses, and transforming our educational ecosystem into one in synergy with the market. I am confident you will all have a mutually rewarding and valuable exchange of views in this summit.

On this note, I am pleased to declare the Philippines Future Skills Summit 2023 open. Thank you. *

Date of release: 07 February 2023