Interest High, But Where Are the Engineers
a time when the government expects an avalanche of mining investments, the
country does not seem to be producing enough engineers to meet industry
Mining, the government keeps on
reiterating, will be a major revenue earner for the Philippines.
Noting a shortage, Richard
Mills, head of a regional executive search firm, said education needed to be
stepped up as the Philippines has a huge potential to become a mineral
A number of schools, meanwhile,
are starting to look for ways to boost enrolment, noting the renewed
interest in the local mining sector.
Last year, only 20 of 31
examinees passed the board exam for mining engineers, adding to the less
than a hundred licensed engineers produced by the country in the past five
years. The shortage is aggravated by an exodus to other mineral producers
like South Africa and the United States.
In the article "Where to
find the miners?" posted on his company’s website, Mr. Mills said the
shortage was a serious problem for developing countries like the
Philippines, where the number of mining firms overcome that of mining
"The global engineering
sector has a critical problem these days to find the people it needs ... and
the crisis [seems to be] more pronounced in the mining segment of
engineering because of the peculiar nature of the business," said Mr.
Mills, who is chairman of executive search firm Chalre Associates.
He cited "the violent
cyclical swings typical of mineral extraction" and "the sector’s
less than flawless reputation at social responsibility" as primarily
the reasons why young people are not lured into a career in mining.
Dr. Leslie Joy L. Diaz of the
University of the Philippines College of Engineering said the
number of enrollees in the school’s mining engineering program had
"tripled this year compared with the previous years."
But even so, Ms. Diaz —
likewise the head of the college’s Mining, Metallurgical and Materials
Engineering department — admitted that graduates nationwide remained fewer
than the labor requirements of the many mining companies mushrooming around
Apart from UP, only a few
universities in the Philippines offer mining engineering. Others
include the Cebu Institute of Technology, Saint Louis University in Baguio,
University, and the Mapua Institute of Technology, which was the first in
the Philippines tooffer the course.
Benito Shea, former chairman of
Mapua’s Department of Mining, Geology and Ceramics Engineering, said
enrollees this semester were bigger than in the past ten years when the
average was only 10 students per year.
For the year, Mapua has 20
mining engineering and geology freshmen.
Saint Louis University reopened
its mining engineering program only this year. The university has a total of
29 freshmen for the first semester.
A slump in the global mining
industry had fostered the lack of interest in mining engineering, said
Rufino B. Bomasang, a mining engineer and a member of the Board of Mining
From 2004 to 2007, only $1.4
billion in mining investments entered the country. The government’s goal
is to attract up to $10 billion in investments by 2011. The optimism has
been bolstered by a Supreme Court decision allowing foreign ownership in the
industry, although mining firms continue to contend with opposition from
host communities and environmental activists.
Mines and Geosciences Bureau
Director Horacio C. Ramos said his agency has also been hit by an exodus of
geologists to private companies offering higher pay. Some 70 positions are
The bureau is appealing to
higher-ups to exempt it from the government-wide plan to
rationalize the state workforce, which prevents the hiring of more
Ms. Diaz said: "We are
working on a plan of some sort, which aims to produce more graduates ... to
offer a special program but details are still on the works."
Mapua, said Mr. Shea, was
coordinating with people in the mining industry who were willing to fund
scholarship programs for students.
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