From a migrant domestic worker for nearly 30 years, Evelyn is now back in Cebu with her family working in a call centre industry

Upskilling women migrant workers for the future of work

Evelyn spent almost half of her life as a migrant domestic worker. Thanks to a training scholarship, Evelyn acquired digital skills, secured a decent job locally and fulfilled her longing to be with her family.

Evelyn Caballero was a migrant domestic worker for more than 30 years. She worked as a nanny in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi for almost half of her life, leaving her own family behind.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evelyn lost her job and returned to the Philippines. She was among the first group of returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). At 49 years old, Evelyn was worried about whether she could still find a job. However, she saw it as a chance to be with her family as well.

“I wanted to spend time with my family because they have grown up without me. Before I got married, I was already an OFW. It was very hard because I cannot attend to the needs of my own children. Zoom and Skype can help, but not completely, because they can only see me, and not really feel my presence,” cried Evelyn.

Evelyn has two children. When her youngest was only three, she left him to work abroad again. Now, her oldest is 18 and in senior high school, and her youngest is 16. She hopes that her family, especially her sons, will have a better future. Even though she has been an OFW for nearly half of her life, she has no social protection benefits such as a pension, so she cannot afford to be unemployed.

While browsing Facebook, Evelyn discovered the #WomenCanDoIT scholarships of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for OFWs and their families. The ILO Women in STEM  and the Safe and Fair Programme  of the European Union (EU) – United Nations (UN) Spotlight Initiative have joined forces.

Together, they partnered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)  and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)  to offer scholarships for migrant workers and their families.

“Some OFWs when they return from abroad, they do not have the skills. Unique about this one is because it focuses on women, and they are significant in our society. They could earn certificates from the training, and when they are empowered, they could also achieve big results. The partnership with the ILO is commendable, and we have series of graduates already,” said Engineer Gamaliel Vicente, Jr., the Regional Director of TESDA for Region 7.

Evelyn got her first job in the Philippines in November 2021. She said that she now feels like a mother to her own children, whom she left when they were young so she could work as a nanny for other families.

The scholarships offered to OFW women in Cebu included training in call centre services, creative web design, and bread and pastry production. It aims to provide them with important soft skills and technical skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to increase their employability.

“Technological advances will significantly change the future of work. Women are more likely to lose their jobs, which creates inequality and leaves them behind. Developing their skills is crucial to address the gaps, make them more employable, and give them access to decent work. This is also true for our returning OFWs and helping them acquire these skills will improve their job prospects,” said Director Khalid Hassan of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

In Cebu City, the ILO, OWWA and TESDA partnered with the Call Center Academy to upskill and empower women OFWs through digital skills, thereby expanding their employment options.

At first, Evelyn remembered how much she struggled. She was not particularly computer-savvy and techy. She also thought that there was no space for her to find a decent job in her own country. She felt that working as a nanny is very different from working in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry.

“I am not a college graduate and I have no experience in banking. I also lost confidence due to my age, but this call centre training helped me regain it. We have this mock call. After the assessment, I was awarded a silver badge. Our trainer said that the badge is about banking. I was hired by Teleperformance under an international bank account before our training ended,” Evelyn shared.

According to Evelyn, the scholarship was life changing. She no longer considers leaving the Philippines after securing her first job in the Philippines. She also encouraged other OFWs to enrol in the training.

“I would really prefer to work here because of the benefits, like social security that I did not have before. The work requires not just talking but also analyzing but the training really helped me learn and gain these skills. Now I can stay here in my country and be with my family,” said Evelyn. “I also feel like I am really a mother to my children now.”

Previously posted at :