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New program aims to strengthen higher education systems for inclusive economic growth and development in the Philippines

The RTI-implemented program will empower graduates to achieve their full potential 

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - RTI International, a nonprofit research institute and leading international development organization, has been selected by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement the five-year U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Skills, Innovation and Lifelong Learning (UPSKILL) program. UPSKILL builds on significant gains made through USAID support for Philippine higher education over the past decade.

The Philippines has one of the largest numbers of higher education institutions (HEIs) in the world, with about 2,000 entities enrolling over 4 million students. Improving student access to quality, flexible lifelong learning through these HEIs can lead to well-paying employment and entrepreneurial outcomes for millions of Filipinos in the years to come. UPSKILL support will better prepare graduates for the labor market, where they may face a misalignment of their degree with job prospects from employers demanding new skills in a rapidly changing economy. The program will empower a greater number of students, faculty and researchers in higher education to achieve their full potential and make higher education a key engine of economic growth in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is consistently ranked among the top 50 most innovative economies in the world," said Richard Abendan, RTI’s chief of party for UPSKILL. “This is in large part due to the many groundbreaking policies and programs that Filipinos themselves in government, industry and academia put in place to enable the Philippines to harness the huge potential of its human capital. To be competitive on the global stage with a changing work and innovation landscape, we need to prepare the Filipino learner for the future of work and society. USAID, though UPSKILL, will deliver on this vision.”

UPSKILL amplifies the progress achieved through the USAID-funded Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program, implemented by RTI from 2013-2022, through which USAID supported collaborative research between industry and academia, as well as between Philippine and U.S. universities. STRIDE fostered an environment in which the government led the promotion of innovation for economic growth. UPSKILL will continue working with government and other key stakeholders to expand innovation and workforce development policies to benefit regional economies throughout the country.

Abendan added, “By the end of the program, UPSKILL and its partners hope to create stronger local, regional and international higher education networks for shared learning and innovation. Supportive governance and policy frameworks will result in more world-class HEIs that will further develop the country’s human capital and realize a competitive economy that benefits all Filipinos.”

RTI’s partners on the project include Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), a dynamic education advocacy group led by the Philippines’ top business leaders with a network of more than 1,000 private sector partners; Edukasyon.ph, the Philippines’ largest education technology platform, which will be instrumental in ensuring student voices are heard to drive UPSKILL’s work; Arizona State University (ASU), the #1 ranked “most innovative” U.S. university; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the #1 globally ranked university; and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T), the largest historically Black university in the U.S. and a leading agricultural research institution. 

UPSKILL will continue to engage more U.S. HEIs to forge new collaborations with Philippine partners in fast-growing sectors such as data science, artificial intelligence, and the green economy.

UPSKILL is one of many programs that RTI implements across sectors in the Philippines, funded by USAID, in energy, health, education, and biodiversity and conservation.  

Read USAID’s press release on the launch of UPSKILL