A new ADB loan will help the Philippine government boost youth employment.

Jundelyn Baylosis Sato, 23, knows that life as a person with disability (PWD) is full of challenges, including the difficulty of finding a job due to discrimination. But a visit in August 2017 to her local government unit’s (LGU) Public Employment Service Office (PESO) in Kidapawan City in southern Philippines turned her life around.

From being bullied as a child and with low self-esteem most of her teenage years because of fibrous dysplasia, a chronic disorder that causes abnormal bone growth including on the right side of her face, Sato transformed into a confident young teacher and mentor on technical and vocational courses after undergoing life skills and technical training courses through the JobStart Philippines Program.

JobStart is a 5-year-old program of the Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) aimed at enhancing the employability of Filipino youth through full-cycle employment facilitation services. It involves one-on-one career coaching, opportunities for technical skills training, and paid internships with private sector employers.

“What I value the most with JobStart is they didn’t reject me despite my condition, but instead they helped me build my confidence. I even gained friends through JobStart,” said Sato, who struggled to find a job for more than a year after graduating in April 2016 from the University of Southern Mindanao with a Bachelor of Technical Teachers’ Education degree.

“Now that I have a job, I am able to give money to my parents for our household expenses. I can also buy things that I want for myself and my four siblings,” she said. “JobStart was instrumental to what I am enjoying now.”

ADB, Philippines extend partnership with new loan

In 2011, the Philippine government, through the DOLE, requested assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) to explore innovative ways to improve government employment facilitation systems. Together, DOLE and ADB crafted interventions aimed at supporting policy development, regulatory reviews, and capacity development at PESOs, which act as the LGUs’ frontline for employment information and services.

Part of ADB’s assistance then was to help design and implement the JobStart pilot project to assist the school-to-work transition of at-risk youths—those who are out of school, unemployed, and not getting any training.

From four PESOs or LGUs implementing the JobStart pilot program in 2014, there are now 35 LGUs administering the program nationwide. ADB and the Government of Canada helped fund the pilot program.

“Young people struggling to find jobs after they leave school is still a persistent problem in the Philippines. Our studies show it can take the average Filipino youth up to four years to find a wage job,” said ADB Country Director for the Philippines Mr. Kelly Bird.

“Creating wage jobs for the youth is critical to helping reduce poverty and income inequality in the country. We are committed to continuing ADB’s strong partnership with DOLE in youth employment programs,” he said.

JobStart as a national policy

In 2016, the law institutionalizing the nationwide implementation of JobStart took effect, guaranteeing the sustainability of the program with regular government funding after a successful pilot.

More than 200 employers have so far partnered with the government under the JobStart program, benefiting more than 20,000 out-of-school youths, about three-fifths of whom women and more than two-thirds coming from low-income households.

On 3 December 2019, ADB approved a $400 million loan for the second subprogram of the policy-based Facilitating Youth School-to-Work Transition Program. The new loan will support DOLE’s Jobstart program, as well as other employment schemes and labor policy reforms aimed to ensure that young Filipinos have access to job opportunities.

With ADB’s support, nearly 40% of the 1,253 PESO centers nationwide are fully institutionalized, while more than two-thirds have received skills development from DOLE, ensuring that PESO officers are equipped with the right skills to mentor Filipino youth on how to successfully find jobs.

PESO centers as JobStart champions

In Sato’s case, the Facebook account of the Kidapawan City PESO center was her link to JobStart. She visited the center after seeing PESO’s announcement on pre-employment programs on Facebook. The officers at the center introduced the JobStart program to her and encouraged her to apply.

After finishing the 10-day life skills training and the 40-day technical training on hairdressing at the Kidapawan Technical School (KTS) in May 2018, she was asked by the same school to apply as a teacher. She now teaches about 250 students in junior and senior high school in KTS, and volunteers as technical–vocational mentor to out-of-school youths during her free time.

“It is a great blessing that there is a JobStart program to give hope to the youth, those who graduated from school but unemployed,” she said. “Even if you don’t have financial resources, you can still undergo training under JobStart.”