Press Release
February 2, 2016

Senate expands, simplifies govt's "earn-and-learn" program

The Senate passed on third and final reading on Monday a bill which seeks to expand the coverage and benefits of the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) and allow more financially-strapped students and even out-of-school youth to avail of the program.

Senate Bill 3090, principally authored by Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, introduces further amendments to Republic Act 7323 or the SPES to increase the maximum age of student workers who can enroll in the said program, lengthen their employment period and give them social insurance benefits.

"While it is recognized that SPES as an employment bridging program has changed the lives of many Filipino youth, it cannot be denied that the implementation of the program has encountered multitude of problems, both procedural and substantial. The current program covers only currently enrolled students, depriving other disadvantaged youth to pursue education. Difficulty is also encountered as to the mode of payment of wages to the beneficiaries," Jinggoy said in the bill's explanatory note.

The SPES is an innovative "earn and learn" scheme enacted on 1992 and implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment which allows students to be employed during their spare time (during Christmas and summer vacations for high school students; while those in the tertiary level may get hired at any time of the year) essentially to save up for their education expenses.

At the same time, the student gains equivalent academic and practicum or probationary training credits as it opens doors to future careers with their respective employers through acquisition of new skills and improved work ethics.

According to the DOLE, there were 186,000 SPES beneficiaries last 2014.

Under SB 3090, out-of-school youth, dependents of displaced or would-be displaced workers due to business closures, or work stoppages, or natural calamities, intending to enroll in any secondary, tertiary or technical-vocational institutions can also enlist with the SPES, which was then open only to "poor but deserving students."

Also, the ceiling is increased up to 30 years old from the current 15 to 25 age bracket.

The proposed measure also seeks to extend the employment period to 78 days from the current 20 to 52 days, in response to business establishments' assertion that two months was not enough time to properly assess the trainees, provide them with necessary work experience and facilitate their absorption as regular employees should they apply in the same company upon finishing their studies.

It does away with government vouchers as mode of paying their wages, and simplifies the manner of compensation through cash. 60% of salaries of the SPES beneficiaries will still come from the employers, while the 40% will come from the government.

Lastly, the student workers will be entitled to social protection by virtue of an insurance coverage with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for a period of one year. This is in line with the DOLE's policy of providing social protection to all beneficiaries of its programs such as emergency employment and government internship who were either enrolled under the GSIS or Red Cross insurance.

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