Heavy Equipment Operators Shortage Looms

MANILA, Philippines --- The country could face a shortage of heavy equipment operators (HEO) because they continue to leave for abroad to seek better pay, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said.

HEOs include drivers of heavy construction vehicles like backhoes, bulldozers, dump trucks, forklifts, and pay loaders. They also include operators of construction equipments like rough terrain crane, truck mountain crane, and tower cranes.

Citing data from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), a Labor Market Trend report said Philippines has lost at least 4,627 or about 30 percent of its 13,925 certified HEOs from 2000 to 2009 to other countries, particularly in the Middle East.

"Middle Eastern countries emerged as the preferred choice of skilled workers due to the increased activities in the construction industry," the reports said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said 3,134 HEOs were deployed to Saudi Arabia, 315 to Qatar and 117 to the United Arab Emirates.

DoLE cited the higher salaries for HEOs as among the major reasons why many of them would leave for abroad.

HEOs can receive about $3,500 per month, compared to the P500 they receive in the local labor market.

With more HEOs leaving, DoLE projected the country's local construction and mining industries may not be able to cope with the incoming investment in the mining industry from China, and construction projects from the United States, which are expected to generate about 44,000 jobs.

To address the problem, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz earlier said they are in the process of reversing the "brain drain" through intensified promotion of these critical skills.

These measures also include raising the budget of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to raise the number of its trainees, which are taking HEO courses. A typical heavy equipment operation course costs about P100,000.