Changing lives of more youth in the regions
DOLE’s SPES helps indigent student finished college

For Gretchen Nacario Iwayan, the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) was not merely an employment bridging program. It is also a big, uplifting arm that brought her closer to her dreams of achieving a college diploma.

Gretchen, from Negros Occidental, was just five years old when her parents separated. The effects of her parents’ parting of ways left a lasting scar on the young Gretchen.

She gradually accepted the fact that her parents were not meant for each other as the years went by. Her being from a broken family did not dampen her spirit. Instead, it even served as a driving force to excel in her studies. In 2008, hard work paid off when she graduated from high school with honors. Subsequently, she passed the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT).

Armed with a strong resolve to pursue college education despite her father’s meager income, she went to the Bacolod City PESO office one day to apply for a slot in the SPES, the DOLE’s school-to-work bridging program that helps poor, but deserving young people earn income while studying.

In the summer of 2008, the Bacolod City PESO hired Gretchen Iwayan as a SPES  beneficiary. Her daily tasks involved filing of documents and encoding of applicants’ records in the PhilJobNet (PJN).

Soon she transferred to the City Hall, where she juggled work and studies every summer until 2011. As SPES ‘baby’, she was assigned at the City COMELEC to assist in the releasing of voters’ ID, registration of voters, and encoding and updating of voter. She was also assigned at the DOLE Negros Occidental Field Office to assist in the encoding of applicants’ records in the PJN.

“As a SPES beneficiary, I was exposed to different offices in the local government where I gained a lot of insights on the various government programs and services. My stint in these offices taught me how to interact and establish rapport with my co-workers and to value team work. I learned to be responsible for my actions and my decisions. I learned to respect people in authority,” Gretchen volunteered.

“The income I earned through the SPES program was really a big help to my studies. It took care a considerable portion of my tuition fees and allowances. Though the amount is not that big, it really matters when one has something little to spend. The experiences and work values that I learned are more valuable though than the money that I earned,” she added.

The income she earned from SPES helped her to finish her degree in Psychology at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas in 2012. She graduated Cum Laude.

“No pain, no gain. If you want to succeed, you have to work hard,” Gretchen said.

At present, Gretchen is employed as Human Resource Assistant at Sanford Marketing Corporation. She remains grateful to her SPES work experience which brought her closer to her dreams.

“This government program is very laudable. I am happy that I became a part of SPES. I hope it will help more indigent students or those who wish to continue their studies,” Gretchen said.

Gretchen is one of the thousands of poor, but deserving students across the country who have benefitted from the SPES.

“By providing short-term, yet gainful employment to the disadvantaged youth in schools nationwide, the SPES has definitely made a difference in the lives of Filipino students who have no means but have the ability to pursue education,” Labor and
Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said, as she called on more students and out-of-school youth to avail of the SPES, saying it helps students in the regions, like Gretchen, to bridge education and employment.

In 2012, the DOLE fully utilized its SPES budget of P340-M by providing short-term work to 138,635 students. In the first half of this year, 132,052 beneficiaries have already been enrolled in the SPES, reflecting 88 percent of the expected 200,000 SPES babies targeted under the P441.5-M program.

Strengthening and sustaining the SPES to enhance the employability of young student-workers can only be done with the active partnership and participation of the private sector, says Baldoz.

“We need you to actively participate in the year-round SPES implementation to bring education and employment to more students and out-of-school youth across all regions,” she said.

“Since I came in as DOLE Secretary in 2010, I made it a priority to partner with the private sector and our LGUs to ensure the long-impact of the program to our student-beneficiaries. Such partnership, I emphasize, should be borne out of their corporate social responsibility of helping more poor students,” she added as she explained:

“Of course, we would not have achieved this without the support of the President who pledged to increase the SPES budget every year”.

President Benigno S. Aquino has kept that promise. For 2013, he increased the SPES budget to P441.50 million to reach the target of 180,000 student-beneficiaries.

Established in 1992 under Republic Act No. 7323, which was amended by RA 9547, the SPES is open to all qualified high school, college or vocational/technical students, and out-of-school youth with the aim of developing their intellectual capabilities of poor families and harness their potential for the country’s development. Specifically, the program assist poor but deserving students pursue their education by encouraging employment of those in secondary level during summer and/or Christmas vacations and of those in the tertiary, technical or vocational education levels any time of the year.

Questions about this release? You may visit or call the Bureau of Workers with Special Concerns at the 9th Floor, G.E. Antonino Bldg., J. Bocobo St. corner T.M. Kalaw Avenue, Ermita, Manila at telephone numbers (02) 404-3336; 527-3097; 527-3116; 527-5856 to 57.

(with reporting from Amy Judicpa, LCO RO6)

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