TESDA partners with Coca-Cola to open training center during National Women’s Month – Manila Bulletin


In a timely celebration of National Women's Month and to prepare sari-sari shop owners for a highly digitized 'new normal', Coca-Cola Philippines and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) have opened the iSTAR Center of Excellence in Manila in March. 15. Sari-sari stores are the backbone of the Philippine economy, and the training center is designed to further strengthen store owners' business management skills by making learning tools more accessible to a wider audience. large.

The iSTAR program builds on the success of the Sari-Sari Store Training and Access to Resources (STAR) program, the company's long-standing project that aims to train women microentrepreneurs and provide them with access to financial resources to enable them to grow their business. STAR modules are now available online through iSTAR, making them more gender-specific and accessible to anyone enrolled in the program. In 2021 alone, iSTAR was able to reach 9,123 beneficiaries.

Found in nearly every back alley across the country, the sari-sari is storing livelihoods and families at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the nationwide lockdown restricted the movement of their regular customers, 42% of sari-sari shops were forced to close in 2020, according to a survey by the Philippine Association of Shop Owners and Carinderia ( NOT CO). Micro-retailers have been shaken by their economic losses.

Fatima Handa, an iSTAR graduate in February 2022 and owner of a sari-sari store in Taguig City, says she had to rely on her business for her family's basic necessities. "Medyo nawalan po ng laman tindahan namin dahil all the pangangailangan doon namin kinukuha and nawalan din po of trabaho ang asawa ko. (We had to get our necessities from our sari-sari shop because my husband lost his job. As a result, our shop supplies dwindled.)”

"Hindi ko isinara ang tindahan, para kahit papaano mayroon pa rin kami pagkukuhaan ng kita. Pero tuwing can bumibili po sa amin, lagi po kaming walang stock and bumaba po ang bentahan namin (However, I could not afford to close shop because we needed money. But we could hardly sell anything to our customers because we were out of stock for most items),” shares Fatima, who saw its sales drop dramatically to P200 a day from earning up to P2,800 a day before the pandemic. But she was able to effectively manage her finances and recoup her losses, a vital skill she learned as a beneficiary of the iSTAR program.

With the opening of the iSTAR Center of Excellence, more Metro Manila-based microentrepreneurs like Fatima will be able to explore TESDA's e-learning modules; improve their entrepreneurial skills such as online selling, inventory control and planning; and access low-interest microloans that will allow them to rebuild their businesses despite the pandemic.

“We have worked together for over a decade now to upskill and retrain women across the country. Together, we also celebrate their successes afterwards,” TESDA Secretary Isidro S. Lapena said of their partnership with Coca-Cola Philippines at the March 15 launch of the training center. “In the midst of all adversity, our commitment to making a difference in the lives of every Filipina remained. Today, we are taking a new step. Thanks to this recently renovated center, we will now be able to train thousands of women in the years to come. »

An existing TESDA training center has been transformed into a digital learning classroom for beneficiaries who do not have access to laptops, mobile devices or internet connectivity. The iSTAR Center of Excellence complies with COVID-19 health protocols, with adequate ventilation, alcohol stations, and tables surrounded by plastic barriers.

Diversify trainees with iSTAR

iSTAR is Coca-Cola's response to the growing demand for digital learning tools covering key business management skills, such as industry knowledge, product preparation and development, and customer service.

"With iSTAR, Coca-Cola Philippines and TESDA have removed the limitations of an offline classroom and diversified their trainees by opening the program to micro-retailers both men and women," said Tony del Rosario, President of Coca-Cola. Cola Philippines. “Sari-sari stores are vital to the community and are among the main drivers of economic activity. At Coca-Cola, we are committed to improving the livelihoods of sari-sari shop owners and providing them with more opportunities to grow their business.

Since its launch in 2021, iSTAR has helped empower thousands of micro-retailers across the country, who have graduated from the 12-session course with renewed hope and additional knowledge about micro-businesses, such as overcoming barriers possibilities for running a business.

Coca-Cola and TESDA have also partnered with microfinance institutions ASA Philippines, ASKI Group of Companies, First Community Cooperative (FICCO) and Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation Inc. to recruit interns for iSTAR to ensure they have enough knowledge to start their own business. .

“The issues facing microentrepreneurs today are many and complex, and we need a strong partner who is aligned with our vision and committed to pursuing essential goals for the betterment of the community we serve,” says Maria Esperanza Liwanag, responsible for training and professional courses. for ASKI. "Our decision to partner with Coca-Cola was based on the results of the 5by20 initiative launched in 2011, which had been a truly impactful and successful program that exceeded our expectations as a partner."

Coca-Cola's 5by20 and STAR legacy

In 2010, Coca-Cola made a global commitment to economically empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020, called the 5by20 initiative. For Coca-Cola Philippines, it far exceeded its goal by the end of 2020, empowering more than 250,000 Filipino women and giving them access to job training and peer-to-peer networks.

Their successes are celebrated in “5by20, Women, and Coca-Cola: A Decade of Women Economic Empowerment in the Philippines,” a forthcoming book that tells the story of their journey to becoming self-reliant entrepreneurs. Course offerings for the iSTAR program can be accessed through the E-TESDA website.

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Milton S. Rodgers