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Solon hits USAID English lessons for Mindanao youth


WASHINGTON D.C.  Some lawmakers want the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to stop spending tax dollars to train college students who end up working for call centers in the Philippines.

          According to the website “Information Week”, New York Congressman Tim Bishop called it “surprising and distressing”. He has sponsored a bill that would make companies that will disqualify companies that outsource call center needs from getting government contracts.

          USAID funds the Job Enabling English Proficiency (JEEP) as part of the $100 million-a-year Growth and Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program that is helping former strife-torn areas of Muslim Mindanao.

          JEEP, according to its website "is classroom based, and focuses on the specialized English skills required by employers in areas such as: nursing and allied healthcare; maritime services; travel and tourism services; business process outsourcing (BPO), and other areas of international employment."

          The 2-year training will reportedly benefit about 23,000 Filipinos in Mindanao. The USAID said the project will wind down by the end of the year. They argued that it was an important initiative to promote peace and stability in Mindanao.

          But the BPO component appears to be troubling solons like Rep. Bishop. “Information Week” quoted him as complaining that the US lost half a million call center jobs in the past 5 years.

          The World Bank said in its Philippines quarterly update that the BPO industry is expected to create 100,000 jobs in 2012 alone.  California-based Wells Fargo Bank has revealed it has chosen the Philippines for a $2 billion BPO operations center.

          Wells Fargo Philippines Solutions will employ some 126,000 and set up operations in Manila’s 14-hectare McKinley Hill Cyberpark, which already hosts centers for firms that include Accenture, Hewlett-Packard and Thomson Reuters.

          "We have a serious jobs deficit in this country and the fact that we would spend US taxpayer dollars to prepare foreign nationals to take over jobs that can easily be done by Americans is shocking" Bishop was quoted by “Information Week.”

          But the Philippine call centers are not the solons’ only targets  they have also trained their sights on another USAID initiative to train the youth in Sri Lanka to land jobs in Information Technology (IT).

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