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USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program holds learning summit, celebrates HEIs

QUEZON CITY (PIA) -- Delegates from 15 cities across the country benefited from the USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program Higher Education Learning Summit held at Novotel Manila from 30 to 31 May 2023.

They highlighted the role of colleges, universities, and other academic institutions in helping resolve challenges to the advancement of the country’s out-of-school youth (OSY).

The USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program supports existing programs and mechanisms for Filipino OSY that improve their education, employment, and livelihood outcomes by 2025. This five-year program is implemented by U.S.-based Education Development Center in collaboration with DepEd and TESDA and with Accenture, Philippine Business for Education, Catholic Relief Services, Voluntary Services Overseas, and SEAMEO INNOTECH.

USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program strengthens second-chance education systems for Filipino OSY; strengthens systems for OSY to be work and business-ready; and improves the environment for positive youth development in communities.

The two-day summit aimed to (1) highlight the unique and pivotal role of HEIs to advance systems and opportunities for Filipino-out-of-school youth; (2) raise the awareness of stakeholders; (3) create spaces for interaction and collaboration among HEIs; and (4) enjoin HEIs to continue and sustain knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

By 2025, USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program targets to reach 180,000 youth, engage 2,200 employers and institutions, train 1,000 teachers, and train 700 technical-vocational trainers. 

Higher Education and Training Readiness Orientation (HERO) youth trainer from Legazpi City, Ms. Cindy Divina, opened the summit with her statement of support.

As her career involves career counselling in her community, she said one of her realizations is the fact that youth can help their fellow youth reach their goals and that trainings and learnings from her higher education helped her to become a better and even the best version of herself as a leader in her community.

“I hope and dream that higher education institutions around the country will continue fostering young leaders so that more young people can reach out to their fellow youth who are out of school. By working together, dreams become realities, by working together, our dreams, our futures become more certain. By working together, we live better lives. Starting today until tomorrow, we will strengthen the message that higher education institutions are partners for out-of-school youth development,” Ms. Divina said.  

As the summit progressed, Quezon City Vice Mayor Gian Sotto welcomed everyone in the city by talking about how important education is.  

“Education is a blessing. Education is the cornerstone of all progress and higher education institutions play a pivotal role in order to accomplish this. As they serve as homes for nurturing the minds of the youth and preparing them for the challenges of the ever-evolving world,” the vice mayor explained.  

According to Vice Mayor Sotto, Quezon City is home to 157,000 OSY, ages 15 to 24 years old. He said that through Mayor Joy Belmonte, the city government continues to put the welfare of these youth on top priority and QC government is working closely with the Opportunity 2.0 Program in the establishment of the Quezon City Youth Development Alliance.

“A large number of these youth are back in classrooms and being employed now. Through Program 2.0, we aim to strengthen our system for the success of our out-of-school youth in achieving a better education, employment and livelihood outcomes,” Sotto was proud to share.   

He hoped that the summit will be a “breeding ground for great ideas, a catalyst for positive change and a platform for lifelong learning.”

He encouraged the participants to continue to educate, collaborate, innovate and inspire as they seize the opportunity to shape the future of education in the country and empower the generations to come.

Dr. Maria Theresa Mokamad, Deputy Chief of Party-Tech Programs of USAID Opportunity 2.0 Program said the event is the first summit of its kind in the Philippines with the major goal of supporting the nation’s OSY.

“We work closely with DepEd, especially with the Bureau of Alternative Education, TESDA, and DTI to improve the life skills curriculum, the work readiness, the entrepreneurship curriculum, and the delivery including the contents, so that trainers, teachers nationwide will be able to roll out these for the OSY,” Dr. Mokamad explained.

She said they also assist with institutional capacity building of institutions with planning and forecasting especially for TESDA and work with LGUs like QC, in each of the 15 sites to improve the enabling environment for the OSY through the formation of Youth Development Alliances.  

For the keynote speech, Mr. Ryan Washburn, Mission Director of USAID Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia said the United States government has been working with the Philippine government, industry, and academia to help youth achieve their dreams.

“We are seeing amazing results from this partnership. Working together, we’ve been able to open doors for thousands of OSY for better education, employment, entrepreneurship, and opportunities.”

He said their group has trained more than 4,000 teachers in new approaches to life skills, vocational instruction, and entrepreneurship and they are working with more than 1,000 local businesses as partners for youth employment. They also have active youth development alliances in 15 cities across the Philippines. Opportunity 2.0 has also supported close to 35,000 youth with thousands of former OSY now in jobs, starting their own businesses, or back in school.

The summit celebrates one of the key stakeholders in youth development, the higher education institutions, according to Mr. Washburn. He also announced that U.S.A is launching two new grants for higher education institutions.

Commission on Higher Education Chairperson, Dr. J. Prospero E. De Vera III, also attended the summit and delivered his message of support.

“I would like to express my utmost support and enthusiasm for the USAID Opportunity 2.0 program summit. I know that this summit is not only timely but vital in addressing challenges faced by OSY.

These collaborative efforts demonstrate a very strong commitment to the well-being and development of our young people in the Philippines.”

He also commended all the higher education institutions that have dedicated their resources, time, and expertise to produce, research, conduct training programs, and activities for stakeholders, and design responsive education for the projects.  

Addressing the education institutions, he said, “Your active participation showcases that our higher education institutions are world class and ensure that learning is given priority in this country. This summit holds the key to unlocking new pathways for the advancement of our OSY.”

He is confident that the learning summit will facilitate meaningful exchanges, foster collaboration, inspire innovative approaches and find common ground to address the complex needs of the out-of-school youth.

Department of Education’s Bureau of Alternative Education Director Lynn Padillo, in her message of support, said, “We all know that education is not a privilege, it is a right and passport of our learnings towards a better future. Education is not only a human right but a tool for personal and societal growth. By taking collective action, we can ensure that everyone has access to education regardless of their background or circumstances.”

She expressed her gratitude to USAID Opportunity 2.0 for its initiative for the past three years and all out support to the department on strengthening systems for the success of Filipino OSY towards achieving a better education, employment, and livelihood outcomes.

“Sama-sama tayong lahat tungo sa isang bansang makabata at batang makabansa,” she encouraged everyone.   

Meanwhile, TESDA Dir. Maria A. Roque shared the message of TESDA Director-General, Atty. Danilo P. Cruz. In his message, he explained how Technical and Vocational Education and Training, or TVET is a practical option for education and employment mobility especially for marginalized groups such as OSY.

DG Cruz said, “TVET equips individuals with the essential knowledge, skills, and attitude, that make them job ready in a shorter time frame, bridging the gap between the informal and formal sector and preparing them for jobs that match their chosen career path. TVET is a platform that offers many more chances to individuals and it is the reason why TESDA resonates with USAID Opportunity 2.0.”

He said TESDA is a proud partner of USAID Opportunity 2.0 through their online program for the development of various learning resources for 21st-century skills and competencies and the training of the “Be Your Own Boss” modules.

Cruz said TESDA and CHED signed a joint Memorandum Circular last April 14, 2023, to establish the Philippine Credit Transfer Systems which facilitates the progression of learners. He assured TESDA is committed to advancing the future of the OSY.

During the first day of the summit, there was also a talk on noteworthy global practices on higher education collaborations for youth development by Higher Education Senior Advisor at USAID, Dr. Samantha Alvis.

The second day of the summit started with a workshop from Dr. Jennifer Lebrón, leader of USAID Higher Education Learning Network (HELN). She talked about HELN, about the key elements of successful Communities of Practices (CoPs) and about the seven principles of CoPsL.

The workshop was followed by breakout sessions. The afternoon, meanwhile, was filled with messages dedicated to higher education institutions for setting of future directions. Messages came from CHED Commissioner Dr. Aldrin Darilag and EDCOM 2 Executive Director, Dr. Karl Mark Yee.

The highlight of the day is the signing of the Partnership Commitment Wall.

It was followed by a gratitude message from Dr. Liesbet Steer, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Education Development Center, and closing remarks from USAID/Philippines Office of Education Senior Education Advisor Mir Tillah. (ARB, PIA-CPSD)

About the Author

Andrea Bancud


Information II from the Creative Production Services Division of PIA Central Office who also writes scripts for IEC materials such as AVP, TV Commercial, Radio Commercial and print materials. 

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