MORE KNOWLEDGE, MORE OPPORTUNITIES.  Former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Rommellie Torrefiel (left) and Bryan Gloria take Dressmaking, and Telecom OSP Fiber Optic course in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), respectively. The two are thankful for the free courses from the government. (Photos courtesy of Rommellie Torrefiel and Bryan Gloria

MANILA – The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic has affected the global workforce. Thus, President Rodrigo Duterte made sure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be assisted, whether they decide to go back abroad or opt to stay for good.

In his 2020 State of the Nation-Address, Duterte has instructed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA ) to come up with special training to retool the OFWs, so they could find more opportunities here and abroad.

Two OFWs spoke with the Philippine News Agency on how the President's order helped them.

Rommellie Gaurana Torrefiel was a well-paid pre-school teacher in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). She did not have a hard time adjusting since the school was using the Philippine curriculum.  
(Photo courtesy of Rommellie Torrefiel )
In 2019, however, Torrefiel said the taxes for expatriates families have increased, so she decided to go back to her hometown with her three kids. Her husband who has been staying in KSA enrolled her in TESDA.

"I wanted to take the caregiving course. But due to the pandemic, the course was not available as it requires physical classes. I took dressmaking instead since I also have a passion for dressmaking," she said.

The course was good for 35 days, but Torrefiel studied from October to December 2020 because of the pandemic, applying a mix of virtual and physical classes. She emphasized that the course was free, and students even got a daily allowance, as well as allowance for internet and personal protective equipment (PPE).

If given the chance, Torrefiel said she would like to put up her own shop. Right now, she could create throw pillows, sofa covers, and has been practicing creating uniforms. With the help of her youngest child, she has been sewing clothes using the school uniform style.

Her advice to other OFWs is to strive harder. "The government provides free (TESDA) education that can be availed by anyone, as long as 18 years old and above. These (TESDA) courses are expensive if they would enroll in private schools. These are not just free, they also get an allowance," she stressed.

Torrefiel added that one should not feel shy to reach out to TESDA. Later on, they could use these trainings, whether in a job or as a source of livelihood.

Bryan Mark Gloria , a former electric supervisor in Qatar, went to the Philippines in 2020, supposedly for a vacation. Because of the lockdown, Gloria was not able to return to Qatar. He learned about TESDA on Facebook.

Gloria took the Telecom OSP (outside plant) Fiber Optic course in September 2020, and got hired by a multinational telecom firm in December.

"It was a good opportunity, as we would learn more. We could also use this if we would like to apply for jobs abroad," he said.

Gloria advises that OFWs who are currently unemployed may also enroll in TESDA, as they would not just learn for free but also get an allowance.

Although he was earning more when he was in Qatar, Gloria said the job that he got after TESDA training is still related to his previous work, which is in the IT (information technology) field. He now works as a field supervisor in Region 8.  
Bryan Mark Gloria took the Telecom OSP Fiber Optic course in TESDA, and is now a field supervisor in a multinational telecom company. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Gloria)
The course, he said, lasted for over a month, tackling the fiber optic, installation standards, among others. He was able to use the TESDA certification when he applied for the job.

If given the chance, Gloria said he would like to go back abroad so he could earn more.

Data from TESDA bared that in 2020, there were 7,500 OFWs who enrolled in their courses. Over 6,100 have graduated, and 1,856 were certified.

From January to June 2021, 5,382 OFWs have enrolled, and 2,433 of them already got their certification.

Top courses among the graduates in 2020 were Entrepreneurship, Caregiving I, Domestic Work NC II, Bread and Pastry Production NC II, and Cake, Bread and Pastry Making. For the first half of 2021, the top courses among the graduates were Caregiving NC II, Bread and Pastry Production NC II, Domestic Work NC II, Driving NC II, and Entrepreneurship. (PNA