Filipino workers often lack soft skills like adaptability and collaboration, leaving them ill-prepared for the challenges of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, according to a new study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) titled “Toward Measuring Soft Skills for Youth Development: A Scoping Study”.

Authored by De La Salle University Distinguished University Professor and University Fellow Allan Bernardo, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert, former Supervising Research Specialist Jana Flor Vizmanos, and Research Analyst Mika Muñoz, the study reveals that this weakness in soft skills, also called “Transversal Competencies” (TVC), stems from the administration of training and skills development that are largely geared towards the pre-digital era. The consequences are significant, impacting not only individual career prospects, but also hindering the Philippines’ economic competitiveness and innovation potential.

“As we move deeper into the 21st century, the need for a workforce proficient in TVCs becomes increasingly critical,” the authors said. “Addressing this gap requires a concerted effort from educational institutions, policymakers, and industry leaders to redefine skills development frameworks and prioritize the cultivation of these essential competencies,” they added.

Through scoping review and key informant interviews, the study identifies three categories of TVCs such as critical thinking and cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills. Filipino workers need strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills alongside effective communication, collaboration, and teamwork to adapt to evolving tasks. Soft skills like adaptability, self-motivation, and resilience further equip individuals to handle challenges and excel in a changing work environment.

Though the authors acknowledge the widespread importance given to TVC, a consistent definition across different sectors remains elusive. This lack of clarity hinders measuring and developing these crucial skills.

“Given the multidimensional nature of TVC as a construct, it was expected that there would be heterogeneity on how it is understood in the Philippine context. But there was noticeable convergence on some concepts and dimensions of TVCs, and some apparent divergences in how the construct may be understood,” the authors explained.

The authors urge refining the understanding of these skills given diverse interpretations and ever-changing job demands. They also note that although the focus on TVCs is prominent in educational frameworks, there is growing recognition of the importance of these skills in the labor and professional sectors. This means there is an acknowledgment of the need for students to develop TVCs to handle the demands of their future workplaces.

Yet, dedicated assessment tools for TVCs are scarce, leading to poor integration within school activities, pre-employment interviews, and task observations. “Some TVCs, such as adaptability and self-regulation, might be better assessed through real-world observations over time,” the authors said.

The study highlights the need to equip educators with tools and resources to effectively teach TVCs within existing frameworks. Collaborating with industry leaders is also important to ensure that educational programs align with real-world job demands.

“A comprehensive strategy is needed to consider the purpose, domains, and types of assessments for TVCs,” the authors said. This strategy should not only support ongoing human capital development but also identify current workforce competency gaps.

“Ultimately, such a strategy will be crucial in cultivating a future-proof and competent Filipino workforce,” they concluded.

Read the full study here: ###

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