Championing Equity: Education for every Juan

GBF hopes to open doors to underprivileged but excellent students through its Iskolar ni Juan Tech-Voc Program.

Sciences, engineering, and technical expertise are vital in laying the groundwork for a developing country’s industrialization. Establishing strong manufacturing and service industries would generate jobs that would uplift the lives of the Filipino family and the economy of the Philippines. Having strong local industries also help ignite a sense of nationalism among Filipinos.

Through scholarship programs for the underprivileged, GBF invites the nation’s youth to embrace their important role as builders of the nation. Through quality technical and vocational education, future members of the labor force are empowered to use their training and expertise to lead the Philippines to sustainable development. Every life changed brings about greater change that impacts us all.

Established in 2014 in partnership with the Universal Robina Corporation-Branded Consumer Foods Group (URC-BCFG), the Iskolar ni Juan (INJ) program seeks promising high school students and out-of-school youths who are unable to fund their own continuing education. The 12-month scholarship also takes care of the scholars’ housing needs for the duration of the program, accommodating them in the 150bed dormitory and hostel within the GBF Technical Training Center (TTC). With housing and basic expenses covered by the program, financial concerns are alleviated and students can focus on their studies.

INJ on-boards three batches of 70 scholars each in January, May, and September. Their academic year consists of three terms: two terms of academic classes at the TTC and a term of on-the-job training at URC-BCFG plants. Upon graduation, scholars are offered jobs in various URC-BCFG plants where

they enter as production operators or maintenance technicians. Developing an effective specialized curriculum has always been top priority. “With the help of the manufacturing group of the URCBCFG, we tried to find out what technology the students needed to learn and at what level these should be learned,” shares GBF TTC’s school director Engr. Manuel Mirabuenos.

INJ graduate Christopher Fernandez, 23, credits the scholarship with helping him advance from being a palletizer before becoming an Iskolar to working in the URC-BCFG PET bottle-making line. “The scholarship made it easier for me to learn how to work the machines,” he says.

The program continually improves through systematic evaluation of the curriculum, the instructors, and the students. This push for excellence has shown tangible success, as seen in the students’ internal test results and 100% passing rate for every student who has taken the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) assessment exam.

But beyond a certificate and test scores, GBF’s aim is for all its graduates to find purposeful employment— proof of a successful education. This is where the Iskolar ni Juan program excels. “The one-year program not only focuses on engineering and technical skills, but actual opportunities to work in real industry environments, as well as a lot of values and character-building programs,” explains GBF Board Secretary Lance Gokongwei. He adds, “Our graduates become much more capable, much more confident, and easily employable.” To date, all 63 graduates of INJ’s first two batches have been hired by URC-BCFG. Arnold Alvarez, the vice president for Manufacturing at URC attests to the talent, ability, and employability of INJ graduates. “They have been very well accepted by the respective sites at URC, given their skills and passion at the workplace.” He adds, “This transition from being students to graduates to employees enhances the opportunities for scholars to create value and start helping provide for their needs and the needs of their families. INJ provides the hope and the means for the young population with big dreams to rise above their situations of less means.” For GBF, every graduate’s story is a success story.

Originally published in GBF's Legacy magazine released in 2017.