Overseas jobs viable option for Filipino IT workers

Still opportunities for employment elsewhere such as Middle East or Singapore, but IT professionals seeking overseas jobs shouldn't rush into one simply to get out of the country.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor

MANILA--With the Philippine government putting a clamp on IT as it is one of the most oversubscribed college courses in the country, Filipino IT professionals can still look forward to having a rewarding career abroad.

Last year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) announced that Philippine schools, starting from 2012-2013 school year, will no longer be allowed to accept students in five programs--hotel and restaurant management, business administration, teacher education, nursing, and IT. This move was aimed to deter further unemployment of thousands of graduates every year.

But for those who graduated with an IT degree, there still are opportunities for them to find employment elsewhere--most likely in the Middle East or Singapore.

According to Yoda Buyco, marketing director of regional job portal Jobstreet.com, IT and engineering are still the top jobs available in the Philippines and Asean region. In fact, he said the four key areas of IT--hardware, software, networking, and administration--continue to rack up the most number of job postings registered on the site.

"All the sub-sectors and specializations of IT and engineering, most especially electronics, are all in demand," Buyco said in an interview. "The next highest are customer service jobs from the BPO (business process outsourcing) market."

The Jobstreet executive said IT professionals are highly mobile--literally and figuratively--noting that the attrition rate among IT workers is particularly high because of huge demand overseas. While the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is the top destination for Filipino overseas workers in general, Buyco said IT professionals usually go or are deployed to Singapore.

"We haven't seen a clear pattern yet for Filipino IT workers going into growing markets such as China and India, probably because these countries have their own set of IT professionals," she said.

Singapore, being the regional hub of most IT companies, serves as the de facto destination for most Filipino IT professionals, even for those who perform non-technical roles.

Carlo Subido, business development manager of Intel Philippines, pointed out that relocating abroad is always a possibility, especially when one is working for a multinational corporation. "Although some regional roles can be handled in the Philippines, there are some roles that require you to move to Singapore because that is where our Southeast Asia headquarters is located," he said.

Roland Ong, unified communications and collaboration technologies head at Cisco Systems Asia-Pacific, agrees that Singapore--with Hong Kong coming in a close second--is indeed the top place for IT workers like him.

"But, with the IT tools we have now, location doesn't matter anymore. We can collaborate anytime and anywhere with IT," said Ong, who is based in Manila.

However, if and when an IT worker decides to try his luck outside the country, Buyco said it is important not to rush and grab that coveted overseas job. Unlike novice overseas workers whose main goal is to get out of the country, experienced professionals are more selective and cautious before taking up a job, she said.

She advised IT professionals looking to work abroad to carefully examine the job description and determine if it fits his objectives and qualifications.

"Sometimes, IT workers get employed in a hardware-related role when, in fact, they wanted a software-related job. That would result in low productivity and job dissatisfaction," she said.

Buyco also recommended IT workers research their prospective employers and work environment before making the decision.

She added that there should be a support group, which usually comes in the form of a Filipino community, that can provide the emotional and psychological support needed for workers toiling in a foreign land.

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance writer based in the Philippines.

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