Last December 6, 19 scholars graduated from the Rural Impact Sourcing Technical Training held in Mati, Davao Oriental. After 10 total days of lecture, and 21 sleepless nights for the participants, I was a proud trainer. Thank you to DICT, and Miss Janette C. Toral for the opportunity.
What is Rural Impact Sourcing?
Carrying the theme “Digital Employment through Rural BPO for Inclusive Growth,” Rural Impact Sourcing is considered as outsourcing which focuses on providing meaningful jobs and other related opportunities in socio-economically disadvantaged areas, mostly rural areas of the country where there is high population but low employment due to lack of investors. The Rural Impact Sourcing Technical Training or RISTT is implemented by the Department of Information and Communications Technology. The program’s specific goals are:
- Increase the ICT technical skills of the talents in the countryside
- Increase hireability of the people to land a job in the field of ICT
- Empower local talent and local businesses
- Promote MSMEs
- Reduce unemployment rate in the country
Mati City, Davao Oriental ScholarsMati City is a fairly young city, reclaiming its city-hood status back in 2012. However, it has quickly developed into one of Mindanao’s top tourism destinations. It is mainly an agro-industrial city that exports fruits, vegetables ad fish. It is also popular because of its environmental sanctuaries and surf haven, Dahican. The participant scholars in the RISTT training came from different backgrounds. Some have had some brief training on virtual assistance, some worked for the government, while the rest were just looking for an alternative means of income. Even though 4 out of the 23 scholars were not able to graduate, I am proud of every single one. There were many hurdles encountered, however, their effort and dedication was apparent throughout the weeks of training. During days without lectures, messages would come in at 10 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and even 3 or 4 in the morning, asking for advice, corrections, and checking. Everybody had to learn, relearn, and unlearn things and habits in order to fully maximize the training.
The first weeks involved a lot of adjustment. The scholars shared that they were aware it was going to be a bit tough, but never expected for it to take so much time and effort for them. The skills imparted to them included general knowledge, technical, creative visuals and writing; all to prepare them to be multi-faceted virtual assistants.
Davao Oriental MSME’s
Personally I was ecstatic to meet the MSME’s. I have always been supportive of local entrepreneurs using local materials for their products. Their different products included driftwood furniture, dried fish, banana chips, chili powder, turmeric products, accessories and many more.
The program wasn’t a walk in the park for them as well. Many of the MSME’s lived 3-4 hours away from the venue and had to travel by bus, bringing their products with them. The transition from offline selling to an online platform was also a bit difficult. Planning was necessary and their products needed to be promoted, complete with photos and write-ups. Constant communication between MSME’s and the scholars were imperative in order for their websites and social media accounts to be complete. There was a struggle. But in the end, many of these businesses were able to have a complete site and experience selling online.
Why Rural Impact Sourcing is Important
It was truly an honor to be given the opportunity to train for the Rural Impact Sourcing program. As the co-owner and managing director of CoffeeBot Solutions, I am aware of how the BPO industry can change lives and the surrounding area where it prospers. The Philippines has already made its name as one of the top choices to outsource services to. We are known to be honest, smart and hard working. However, there are many areas who have not realized this opportunity, and the RIS program spreads this opportunity to more and more people.
I am thankful that DICT launched this program and that the local government of Mati City, as well as the local DTI was more than accommodating. They went beyond their typical duties, working even through the holidays to make sure we had everything we needed for the training.
I would have to say that the biggest impact I observed among the trainees and the MSME’s who participated in the program was a complete change of perspective. The MSME’s went from selling to their neighbors, to selling to the entire region, or Mindanao, or the Philippines, and even the world. They realized the potential of their products, and the importance of the internet in all of this. They were able to factor in costs, effort and help that was needed in order to reach a wider audience. In return, they were able to receive orders and inquiries they never thought they would get. And many were serious about pursuing these efforts further.
The RISTT scholars were expected to pick up skills necessary to work online, but that wasn’t the only thing they learned during the training. The exposure to the different services common to online working has taken a tool on them, but has exercised their minds that there was more to their capabilities.
Non-writers made the effort to write; non-technical people learned to use a CMS; people who refused to talk in front of an audience learned how to market themselves as freelancers. And their efforts paid off. Many of the scholars were hired as virtual assistants by foreign employers as well as local business.
Positivity is Contagious
The technical training is very thorough and strict, not only for the participants, but also for the trainers. During the first few days, I ended up sleeping like a log at 9 in the evening. When the training ended, I slightly lost my voice, but it was all worth it.
The best experience in the program is hearing the trainees share that they also wanted to give back, and share their knowledge with their relatives and neighbors. In fact, they wanted to create their own virtual assistant association so they can help each other and pass on jobs to those who had the skills and strengths needed.
The fact that these scholars wanted to make the virtual assistant community grow is one of the goals of the program, and it’s great to see it flourish organically. They were willing to exert additional effort to make it happen, and they had the support of the government. I am looking forward to bigger things from Mati City, and I hope to go back and see the great fruits of their labor.
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