One Step Forward to Transform Education
by Veronica (Nicki) Virina, Corporate Social Responsibility and Internal Comms Manager of Schneider Electric Philippines
In what feels a lifetime ago, I was working in an NGO brokering some projects for schools. I was quite new to the world of CSR. I was still shocked at how forward-thinking companies can be with their school partners. Almost a decade of doing CSR and it still amazes me at how the spirit of shaping the future and meaningful purpose lives on in companies who include their school partners in their plans. This was also what attracted me to join Schneider Electric almost two years ago.
I learned about the Access to Energy program of Schneider Foundation, and how very well thought out it was. The fact that there was a major investment in skills development and education transformation was a win because having been involved in blue collar skills upgrading in my previous job, it gave me semblance of professional continuity. In addition, in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, I was fascinated by the commitment to ensure inclusive and equitable life-long learning for all.
During the first few weeks of joining Schneider, I immersed myself in the program and reached out to some of the partners and saw that the program had loads of potential for growth in Philippines.
Shortage in Skilled Workers in Philippines
Country statistics show that there is a major shortage in skilled workers. One does not necessarily relate much to this fact, but we ought to be more concerned. According to a research, 674 million people will still not have access to energy by 2030. We should take it as an opportunity to train youth in energy management and electrical trainings. There are a lot of companies who advocate for skills upgrading to support government efforts, but companies can only do so much.
As a CSR practitioner, I’m always on the lookout for partners who share the same vision for sustainability. For educational efforts, it would be important to look for a partner school who is just as passionate as we are to transform education and develop youth skills. It would only be better if they also had a good electrical skills training program because we are always looking for opportunities for our employees to engage with the community by sharing their expertise.
Schneider Electric Community Day at Signal Village National High School
Signal Village National High School is a public school in Taguig City, where our Commercial Office is located. I met the school principal a while back while scoping the area to identify possible CSR partners. It was during one of these visits that I was told they had an active technical-vocational program that included electrical training. They are a large school with over 9,000 students and just 300 teachers. I asked about volunteering opportunities for Schneider employees. They accommodated us during the first Schneider Electric Community Day where our #SEGreatPeople volunteers went to local public schools to participate in a national schools’ maintenance program. We saw over 50 employee volunteers literally paint the school green in preparation for the new school year.
During the preparatory work for the event, we found out that the electrical training program was one of the more successful ones in the school. Their students were very engaged and were appreciative of the training. They even participated in a regional skills competition called Technolympics where they emerged as champions. The students were keen on expanding their skill set and possibly use this as a starting point for a career in the electrical industry. What they lacked to realize this was more equipment that were more up to current industry standards.
Industry-grade Equipment for Future Electricians
With great support from our leadership team, I could arrange some Schneider Electric products for the school. They were to upgrade the exposure of the future electricians to industry-grade equipment.
We managed to work together with the school to coordinate the delivery of the items. On the delivery day, the students rallied together to unload the electrical supplies. Even the wooden pallets the equipment came in were unloaded and will be used for various school projects. One of the electrical teachers was explaining that the equipment will be valuable in equipping the students with more modern products, something that they don’t have now. I was so much moved looking at students who had wonder and amazement in their eye.
A couple of realizations after everything was settled. First, that I needed to get a crash course in basic electrical work. Second, that our advocacy should continue to transform education by contributing to skills building. I am very happy that the Access to Energy program is already doing that but think that there are also other things we can do, like inviting our engineers to help in the electrical training programs of local public schools. This can provide a venue for them to share their expertise with the future cadre of electricians.
Transforming education should be something we ought to think about. While we think we cant much, every little bit we contribute will definitely help achieve this.