A Makati City-based college, acknowledged as the pioneer in the six-month full-time internship program, is equipping its students with automation and artificial intelligence skills to prepare them for the future of work.
“If today’s jobs are to be automated, then the kind of people that you need are those talented enough. We want to create another category of talents. We are capable of doing it. We are integrating them in the curriculum right now,” Dr. Ma. Teresita Medado, president of Asia Pacific College, says in an interview in Makati City.
APC, established in 1991 by IBM Philippines and SM Foundation, is a center of excellence in information technology education. It is one of the eight Asean schools chosen by leading robotic process automation company UiPath for its academic alliance program.
Aside from APC, other institutes of higher learning tapped by UiPath are Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, ITE College West and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Ladkrabang in Thailand. UiPath will also team up with NTUC LearningHub, the leading provider of continuous education and training in Singapore.
UiPath says that through the academic alliance, it will work with educational institutions to equip students with critical automation skills, teach them how to leverage RPA in the workplace and prepare them to work alongside software robots. UiPath aims to train over 50,000 students and professionals in Asean over the next three years for the automated workforce of the future.
Medado says that with the advent of automation, the future of work will involve more creativity, agility and analysis. She says with RPA or software bots, the next generation of workers needs to become more creative and productive to help industries become more efficient.
“The whole idea of automating all these repetitive skills and those that do not need to be done by people anymore is giving a chance for everyone to be more productive. Because the bar is higher, all you have to do is be more analytical, more agile in order to create more projects and develop more relationships with people,” she says.
“The kind of thinking skills that are necessary is unbelievable. If the robot is doing everything for you, you have to be more creative than you we before,” she says.
“In business, what is more important is being able to innovate new programs. What happens now is that the CIOs and CEOs are looking at how they will compete. Everybody is competing in that layer where everything is automated. That is the impact of RPA. Of course, there are other technologies. It goes all the way to AI [artificial intelligence] because those are the solutions path that our students will eventually be involved in. Every business will be essentially empowered by AI,” she says.
Medado, a UP-educated academician from Batangas City, says APC has a strong IT-based foundation with a strong focus on meeting the industry needs for highly-equipped workforce in information technology, commerce, engineering, accountancy, entrepreneurship, multimedia arts and other fields.
She says APC has strong linkages with more than 200 organizations such as IBM and UiPath. The school’s strengths, she says, revolve around its six-month internship that makes students land a job quickly and the industry certification that has been imbedded in the curriculum.
“Even if you have not finished college yet, you are employable. This is important because with the introduction of K-11 and K-12 where we won’t have graduates next year and the year after, we will have students who are professionally certified to work for you. They are also cloud-certified,” she says.
The World Bank, in the report “The Digital Economy in Southeast Asia—Strengthening the Foundations for Future Growth”, says that with digital technology transforming almost all sectors of the economy, the skills of the region’s workforce need to keep pace.
“Education systems will have a key role to play in developing the technical knowledge and soft skills that are required to compete in the global digital economy. Given the rate of technological change, adaptability and lifelong learning will be more important than ever, as well as more effective collaboration between the public and private sectors,” the bank says.
Tom Clancy, senior vice president for learning at UiPath, says: “The Asean region is going through a period of rapid economic and technological transformation and the workplace of the future will look very different to the workplace of today.”
“We need to prepare and train our youth for a more automated future, one where the ability to work alongside robots will be as important as the skills they bring to bear. That is why UiPath is committed to training more than one million students globally in the next three years as we understand that education and re-skilling are vital if we are to thrive in a digital future,” Clancy says.
Medado says the partnership with UiPath is an important step to address what is anticipated as a global shortage of RPA developer base.
“Together with UiPath, APC and its stakeholders will develop the workforce of the future of business, RPA being a vital platform for industry growth, not just in the Philippines, but also with other academic partners in the region,” she says.
Medado says the partnership is consistent with APC’s tradition of being established out of technology disruption by industry stakeholders and practitioners.
Medado says the Commission on Higher Education encourages other universities and colleges to follow APC’s strong linkages with industry players through its internship program.
“We have industry partners teaching as resource persons in our school. We don’t necessarily get the students to sit in front of the teacher and listen the whole day. Our students, as early as the second year, will be involved in projects. They are in laboratories, in groups and in teams collaborating on projects. For the entire year, they will pitch their solutions to the market,” she says.
“By the third year, they are already enabled even before the internship. Once they graduate, their level of competencies would be really higher. They will not only be providing support or creating apps, but they will also be supporting business continuity. They will be creating innovations that will differentiate the market,” she says.
APC alumni are working today for top multinational companies while others went on to establish their own businesses such as cybersecurity companies and digital solution providers.
“Industry absorption [of APC students] was very high. From what was CHED was saying, we were able to convert about 80 percent of our students within the first six months into employment. There were certain methodologies that we use to make that happen. They are strategic and tactical because we do have what we call the six-month full-time internship. Even before they graduate from college, they already belong to the industry,” she says.
“No other college is doing the same. As a matter of fact, CHED is recommending to many schools that they follow our six-month internship,” says Medado.
Medado says through APC’s latest partnership, “UiPath will train our faculty and students and we will have access to their tools. We are also collaborating with other schools in the Asean region.”
APC, meanwhile, will introduce its technology courses in the National University where the SM Group holds a significant stake. “We are expanding our reach into National University. It is our program that we will build into new sites. That will also give UiPath a source of more people,” she says.
UiPath would need 50,000 workers within three years in the Asean region alone, while SM plans to build more branches of National University in its shopping malls around the country.
“We are looking forward to being a part of a larger ecosystem of NU which is strongly supported by the SM Group,” Medado says.