In a span of two years ( 2022-2023) saw a dramatic increase of graduates in the college level in Cordillera, according to Commission on Higher Education – Cordillera (CHEDCAR). For academic year (AY) 2022- 2023, total graduates
posted at 17,903 while in 2021- 2022 had 14,254 as against the 10,338 lowest marked in 2020- 2021 at the height of the Covid pandemic crisis. Before the world health crisis Covid, specifically for AY 2018-2019, total graduates in the region recorded a high of 18,857 compared to 11,983 for academic year 2019-2020.

The enrolment data from CHED-CAR reveals a diverse interest in academic fields among students in the CAR, with the Medical and Allied Disciplines leading at 17.8 percent , translating to approximately 25,000 students. This surge underscores a growing interest in healthcare professions amidst a global health-focused climate. Following this, the category of Other Disciplines, which includes a wide range of academic pursuits at 13 percent or approximately 18,000 students. This indicates a shift towards interdisciplinary studies and evolving career interests.

Business Administration and Related disciplines drew 11.6 percent of the enrollees, or roughly 16,000 students,
highlighting a sustained interest in business and management education. Others, Engineering and Technology follow with 9.5 percent (13,000 students), and Education Science and Teacher Training with 8.9 percent (12,000 students). IT-Related and Service Trades each attract 6.1 percent of enrollments (8,000 students), while Fine and Applied Arts see 5.3 percent (6,000 students).

Natural Science and Mathematics have lower enrollments at 2.5 percent (\00 students) and 0.8% (900 students), respectively, reflecting their specialized nature. However, the transition from academia to the workforce is overshadowed by the region’s unemployment and underemployment rates. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent in January 2024, marginally higher than the previous year’s 3.3 percent.

More concerning is the significant rise in underemployment, jumping from 12.7 percent in January 2023 to 16.8 percent by January 2024, highlighting a growing gap between job availability and the skills or employment needs of the workforce. The impact of graduation months on labor employment is a critical factor for the region. The influx of new graduates typically leads to a temporary spike in unemployment rates as more individuals enter the job market. This seasonal phenomenon underscores the need for a strategic approach to align educational outcomes with employment opportunities.

Nickson Wayne G. Bolla, a 2022 graduate of Bachelor of Communications, shared his apprehensions about entering the job market amidst the challenging employment landscape. ”May takot at kaba knowing na there’s a competition sa pag apply ng isang position. Lalo nat fresh graduate, usually hinahanap nila may mga experience, kaya may chance na ndi makuha,” he said. Bolla’s concerns reflect the broader anxieties of many young professionals in CAR as they navigate the complexities of finding employment in a competitive and experience-driven job market.

Enrollment figures in the CAR both private and public highlight Baguio City as the leading educational center with
71,196 students, followed by Benguet’s 24,550. Other provinces like Kalinga (14,011), Ifugao (12,127), Abra (11,435), Mountain Province (6,563), and Apayao (5,009) contributed to the grand total and reflecting a widespread commitment to higher education across the region.

Katrine Dumling,/U- Intern

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