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US $30 million ‘UPSKILL’ program to bolster Phl global competitiveness

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On February 20, the United States government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), launched the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Skills, Innovation, and Lifelong Learning (UPSKILL) Program, a five-year, Php1.6-billion ($30 million) initiative that will help Philippine higher education become more globally competitive by strengthening innovation, workforce development, and entrepreneurship in colleges and universities.  

U.S. President Joseph Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. jointly announced this initiative during President Marcos’s visit to the White House in May 2023.

USAID’s UPSKILL Program will bring together U.S. universities, Philippine government agencies engaged in human capital development, and private sector partners to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education institutions through faculty and staff training, curriculum improvements, and increasing community outreach and technology transfer. These efforts will improve the qualifications and career prospects of Filipino higher education graduates to continuously meet evolving workforce needs and enhance linkages between U.S. and Philippine universities.

The UPSKILL Program is implemented by RTI International through a consortium of U.S. universities, which includes Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, and Philippine partners such as and the Philippine Business for Education.

“The challenges and opportunities that young people face today in the workplace make college training and education critical for their future success,” visiting USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for East Asia and the Pacific Sara Borodin said during the UPSKILL Program launch at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.  “Through this new USAID program, the United States government reaffirms its commitment to working with our Filipino partners in transforming the higher education sector.”

Officials from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Second Congressional Education Commission, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Economic and Development Authority, and the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, as well as representatives from several Philippine universities attended the program launch.

“With this partnership with USAID, the Commission on Higher Education will provide unique opportunities for our colleges and universities to continuously innovate in response to the aspirations of the Philippines, and specifically that of our students,” CHED Executive Director Cinderella Filipina Benitez-Jaro said.  “Together, we will demonstrate the compelling value of internationally recognized training, cooperative research, and lifelong learning modalities being offered by Philippine higher education.”

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