|With PRIDE, New Mindanao Graduates Gain Entry to Corporate World|
CANLUBANG, LAGUNA—Every weekday, shortly after sunrise, Gringo Patacpan enters the gates of a sprawling pharmaceutical complex here, dons a blue lab gown and mask, and spends the next several hours working in the antiseptic confines of the company laboratory.
His assigned tasks as an intern require a high degree of concentration, dexterity and precision; even experienced technicians might find the work daunting. Patacpan, who graduated only this year from the University of Southern Mindanao, couldn’t be more elated.
“When I was still in elementary school I already wanted to do lab work,” Patacpan says, recalling how he’d watch with envy as older students conducted science experiments, in his hometown of Kabacan, North Cotabato.
Encouraged by his father, a farmer, Gringo completed a degree in chemistry. As with many young graduates in his locality, it wasn’t at all certain he would be able to find a job in his field, or indeed any job at all requiring university-level skills.
Then he heard that top corporations in the Philippines are partnering with USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program to provide managerial and technical internships of three to six months for qualified college graduates from conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
GEM’s Productive Internships in Dynamic Enterprises (PRIDE) project provides successful internship applicants—each of whom undergoes a stringent selection process specific to each partner-company—with the opportunity to build up their resumés and gain experience of the corporate world.
PRIDE is also aimed at increasing awareness, on the part of participating companies based in the National Capital Region, of the skilled pool of potential employees available in Mindanao.
Patacpan, a Maguindanaoan, and Krisonne Sariol, a Tausug, applied to the GEM Program for PRIDE internships and were accepted by Interphil Labaoratories, Inc., where they are based for six months.
Other top corporations that have placed PRIDE interns are Globe Telecomm and fastfood leader KFC Philippines.
For most interns, the biggest surprise is the breadth and intensity of the training, as well as the degree of responsibility they’re given as managers-in-the-making.
“I feel I learned and accomplished more in my first two weeks here than I did in four years of college,” said Sariol, who is undergoing training in the various units of Interphil’s human resources division.
“You have to lead over 25 people per shift, and your smallest actions and decisions affect everyone, staff and customers alike,” said Raihanie Abbas, a KFC management intern who grew up in Marawi City. “You quickly learn to build relationships and stand by your decisions as a leader.”
“It’s fast-paced, and you can’t depend on others all the time, so there’s a lot of self-learning,” said Suhaina Khalid, also from Marawi, who looks back with satisfaction at the three software programs she developed as an information technology intern at KFC.
Patacpan, on the other hand, valued the guidance provided by his laboratory supervisor Allan Punongbayan, whom he described as very thorough yet kindly.
The interns said they appreciated their host companies’ friendly atmosphere and respect for Muslim observances. “They allow us time for prayer and make sure the canteen has food we can eat,” said Sariol.
Prior to deployment, PRIDE interns are briefed on the customs and expectations of a corporate environment by volunteer Suraida Guro, who is a senior trade specialist managing the halal project of the Department of Trade and Industry.
The interns’ immediate supervisors in turn are provided with cultural pointers in mentoring Mindanao Muslims. “I found them very open to learning about Muslim practices,” said Guro, a Maranao who grew up in Manila. “I like to think that PRIDE helps bridge the gap between cultures.”
“While this is an opportunity to hone the talents of deserving interns, at the same time our managers’ skills are exponentially enhanced by the exchange,” said Interphil recruitment and training manager Ma. Jaele Camba.
The interns, too, found themselves dealing with their colleagues’ curiosity—and occasional negative stereotypes—about Mindanao.
“Sabi ng iba sa akin, ‘di ba magulo ang Mindanao [some ask me, isn’t Mindanao a troubled place]?” said Patacpan. “I explain that’s not the case everywhere, there are in fact many more places in Mindanao which are peaceful.”
At the end of their internship, the PRIDE interns are evaluated by the individual companies on their work performance.
“This allows us to determine the potential of interns, whom we may ask to join our organization afterward,” said KFC recruitment manager Ghed Gonzales.
Currently, the preferred disciplines for internship applicants are: engineering, hotel and restaurant management, information technology, architecture, pharmacy and accounting. Internships in other fields will become available as additional PRIDE partnerships are established between corporations and the GEM Program.
PRIDE interns are provided orientation and training, round-trip travel arrangements between their home base in Mindanao and their internship location, a monthly living allowance, and medical insurance for the duration of the internship.
Abbas and another KFC intern, Khamila Boloto, both of whom had prior experience working outside Mindanao, say that PRIDE is an opportunity to prove that Mindanao Muslim graduates can be just as successful as others in the corporate world.
“We really want to do well, so they will hire more Mindanaoans,” said Boloto.
“People may think Mindanao is dangerous, but they don’t realize that there’s a reverse perception—people in Mindanao are actually scared to come to Manila,” added Abbas.
“PRIDE will also encourage them to look at the world differently,” Abbas said.
Published in Philippine Star (Starweek Magazine), November 29, 2009
www.philstar.com, November29, 2009