(L-R) Geraldine Usman, Rochie Hollero and Roxan Delmo at the site of the 210 MW baseload powerplant of the Sarangani Energy Corporation.

One of the biggest assets of the Philippines is its young and talented workforce – a fact that Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. had also underscored. It is estimated more than one-third of the country’s population is composed of Millennials – usually described as those born after 1980 and have reached young adulthood by 2000 – and it is estimated that in the next decade or so, Millennials will comprise more than half of the world’s total workforce.

According to business.com, Millennials are continuous learners, collaborators, achievement-oriented, socially conscious and highly educated. As a result, they are looking for more than a paycheck from their jobs – with about 64 percent saying they “want to make the world a better place.”  A survey released by the US-based HR Policy Foundation also disclosed that “more than two-thirds of employers report their Millennial workforce is above average or exceptional.” No surprise therefore that an increasing number of companies are employing Millennials with while 85 percent of them are adjusting policies to attract these youth. 

One of the companies that had recognized the contribution of Millennials in the workforce is the Alsons Power Group, whose Mindanao-based subsidiaries such as the Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) has become an employer of choice among young people. At $570 million, the SEC’s 210-megawatt power plant is the single largest investment in Sarangani province and the region. The first 105-MW unit of SEC’s coal-fired plant is set to operate soon with the full 210-MW capacity to be fully operational by 2018.

While the power industry is normally dominated by males, more and more females are joining the workforce – confident that they have opportunities for professional growth within the Mindanao-based power company.  

“I wanted to work in SEC because the company can give me a better future for my career and personal growth,” says Geraldine Usman, who works as a control operator, adding that working in an industry dominated by males is “not really an issue for me. Being female is not a hindrance in performing my responsibilities. I have been fortunate not to experience any discrimination as a result of being a female engineer.”

The same sentiment is echoed by 27-year old Rochie Hollero, mechanical engineering graduate, who works as data analyst. Working with SEC, she says, gives her a lot of opportunities for growth particularly since she is learning new aspects of the job that were not taught in school, she says in the vernacular.

Like Rochie and Geraldine, one of the things that Roxan Delmo and Dandy Mala-ay want to correct is the misconception people have that the whole of Mindanao is conflict-affected. “People here in Mindanao are not violent but peace-loving,” says Dandy, a 25-year-old mechanical engineering graduate who works as a plant operator.  “Mindanao is the second-largest island of the Philippines, and the terrorism that is happening in some places should not make them generalize that the whole area is a war zone,” adds Geraldine.

(Top-bottom) Eiffel Germaine Tapan and Dandy Mala-ay on the job at SEC

While a lot of locals aspire to work in urban centers such as Metro Manila and even out of the country as overseas Filipino workers, these young Millennials say they are not about to leave, especially since the employment provided by SEC has allowed them to earn without leaving their families. “When you’re happy with your work and you don’t get homesick, then you become more efficient,” posits Roxan. 

“People from outside Mindanao think we don’t have opportunities to work in big companies, or that we don’t have the necessary skills to work outside,” remarks Eiffel Tapan, a Business Administration graduate who works as an administrative assistant. “(Since) there is the opportunity for employment here in Sarangani, I don’t see the need to look for work outside,” shares Eiffel.

The fact that they are working in a power plant by a big conglomerate based in Mindanao has made them cognizant of the economic contributions that SEC and Alsons Power gives to the region. A lot of the people being hired by SEC are from Mindanao, and when the power plant becomes fully operational, it will help not only in providing more employment to the locals but also in assuaging the power problem in the region.

“Having a big company like SEC in Sarangani will help the government earn more in terms of revenue, so the presence of the power plant is very helpful,” avers Rochie Hollero.

“The presence of SEC provides employment to the locals and other qualified individuals in neighboring communities. Engineers in Mindanao do not have to go to Luzon, Visayas or even abroad just to earn a living. Furthermore, the power crisis in Mindanao will be alleviated, and the government will have earnings that will fund more projects,” Geraldine observes.

Driven and passionate, Millennials believe they can make a difference and make the world – or at least in the places where they operate. For Geraldine, Rochie, Roxan, Eiffel, and Dandie, the decision to stay and work in Mindanao is a choice that they have consciously made to help in the region’s economic development and empower the people in the process.