The Masbate Gold Project (MGP) is a mining company at the center of a community of 8 impact barangays, and committed to help realize the aspirations of barangay residents. Through various programs, MGP has pledged to guide, provide, and spur the development of mining communities towards a better and sustainable future.

Over the years, Masbate Gold Project, through its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) engaged the host communities in pioneering projects and programs with a clear objective of providing alternative sources of livelihood and better opportunities to improve lives.

Among these projects is the establishment of a Vocational Technical training facility, the “MGP Eight Impact Barangays Training Center; an P18 million-peso training facility, the first of its kind in the town of Aroroy and is among the best in the greater Bicol region.

The school subscribes to the national competency-based education program endorsed by the Philippine government through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). This training program offers students with vocational skills and competencies designed for the easy integration of its trainees into the work environment. The TESDA training curriculum is modeled after that of a work environment that features a significantly shorter training period for students to gain the required skills. From 2-3 months of training, students can complete specific qualifications and be certified (at progressively higher levels if study continues) after passing a stringent competency assessment.

Since its opening in June 2018, 105 students from the 4 batches of the SMAW welding course NC I and NC II graduated from the two series of competencies. On the plumbing course, 47 already graduated for NC1 and NCII. The MGPEIBTC is also in the process of getting certifications to add five more competencies: Driving NCII, Bartending NCII, Masonry I and II, Carpentry I and II, and FBS I and II which are expected to be certified in April 2019.

 

Dream come true.

The training center was realized through the vision of a viable, affordable and accessible human resource development for residents of the impact barangays by the Masbate Gold Project and its host communities. Melecio Recto, former Barangay Captain of Capsay, is one of the community leaders who supported the project which was conceptualized within our Community Relations Department. He shared that with the annual inflow of SDMP funding from MGP, an opportunity was presented to the leaders of the 8 impact communities to allocate a portion of their budget for a co-funded project that will finally make them realize their dream of establishing a TechVoc Center. They were specifically looking for a project with a two-fold aim: to improve the lives of their people, and to bring desperately needed skills and capability training to the residents that will help them use and sustain these knowledge and skills for jobs and livelihood even after the end of MGP’s mine life.

The concept of a TechVoc training center was raised at the onset of commercial operations of MGP due to the mismatch of employment opportunities in the company and the available pool of skilled manpower in the communities. But given the high poverty incidence in the barangays, priorities for infrastructure, education, health programs were undertaken first  before a significant funding for the TESDA centre could be set aside. It was a gradual evolution to get to where we are today.

With guidance from MGP’s community relations team, the full support of MGP’s top management, and active commitment of the 8IB barangay officials, the Center was inaugurated on June 18, 2018.

Mildred Marcaida, TESDA Provincial Director, has high hopes that the training center will become a top provider of highly specialized technical competencies in the region. ”There is a huge potential for this training facility because of its special relationship with MGP,” she stated.   

The Center is currently managed a board of directors headed by Mr. Recto who was a former small scale miner. “I saw the need to break away from artisanal mining. My people prefer artisanal mining over farming because they get income on a daily basis. This training center will provide life-long alternative opportunities to realize an income for our people. Because of their exposure and training, our graduates may put up small businesses, land jobs, or start business associations that will help kick start the socio economic development of our communities.”

 

The certificate, a ticket to prosperity.

For the people of the eight impact communities dependent on farming and mining, the training center is a gateway to employment and life-changing opportunities. It will be a vital lifetime to knowledge and skills and a more permanent alternative to small scale mining.

Alex Pusing, 22 years old is among the first batch graduates of the welding course, has been an artisanal miner since he was 11 years old. Through hard work and help from his older siblings, he was able to complete a 4-year Automotive course. But in this town, finding automotive-related work is tough so his major source of income is still artisanal mining.

 “From the start, artisanal mining was the only available source of income for most of us. As the middle child of 8 siblings, I had help my family financially. I would do mining after school. Armed with mallets we would break rocks and gather gold-bearing ore from the mountain and have it crushed and processed. A day’s work would give us between P150 to P500 pesos ($3 - $10). But artisanal mining is not forever; it is not a good livelihood on which to start and support a family.

On June 2018, Alex joined the first batch of students of welding. Within a month, they completed the series of two competency levels. And when the assessment was conducted, the result was a 100% passing rate.  Right after the certification, a local company reached out to the graduates offering jobs. Alex, the artisanal miner, is now working as a certified welder.

 

A step towards independence.

Masbate Gold Project takes pride in the establishment of the training center as it symbolizes the culmination of all the years of implementing SDMP. It is a step towards providing the people independence, self-determination and sustainability. A pioneering step outside of the traditional economy.

The success of the training center will largely depend on the synergy of the 8 host communities. With the formation of their organization, they are ready to tap a wider pool of agencies that can provide assistance in terms of technology, services, financial aid and other valuable resources. MGP will continue to be at their side as a community partner and a silent witness to this milestone in community development.