(April 27, 2012) “Because of SPES, my Mom doesn’t have to mind my enrollment for the next school year. She doesn’t have to think about my school supplies and my uniform allowance as well because I have my salary already.”
            These are the words from one of the 165 SPES grantees of LGU-Tacurong, Smilee Joy A. Sonza. Raised by a single parent, 18-year old Smilee considers the opportunity of applying in SPES very important. Though she gets support from her aunt, earning money of her own will aid her personal needs especially for her education.

            SPES, or Special Program for the Employment of Students, is a part of the KABATAAN 2000 program and mandated under Republic Act No. 7323 which envisions reaching out to poor but worthy students by granting them income during summer and Christmas breaks. Employers are encouraged to employ the youth by offering them benefits, such as paying only 60% of the prevailing minimum wage while DOLE pays the balance of 40%, through education vouchers.

            In order to qualify for the said program, aspiring applicants have to undergo an examination that will serve as one of the basis for qualification. Smilee ranked second when she applied last March 2010. Academic excellence is also taken into account for qualification.

            As mentioned, the Department of Labor and Employment together with national and local government units, NGOs, private establishments, GOCCs, labor unions, and other organizations make this program possible to help the youth. For LGU-Tacurong, the Public Employment Service Office (PESO), headed by Mr. Allan Freno, served as the gateway to enable the conduct of SPES under their special programs.
            PESO is a non-fee charging entity made under R.A. 8759 or the “Public Employment Service Office Act of 1999.” One of its special services involves SPES, sticking into its goal: ensuring the prompt, opportune and proficient delivery of employment service and provision of information on the other DOLE programs.
            LGU-Tacurong and DOLE started to acquire SPES grantees last April 23, 2012 and assigned them into several offices. Smilee, having been a grantee for three years, has worked for the Human Resource Management Office, Sports Office, and PESO Office of the City Government.  
            Aside from financial support provided by this program, SPES also helps in the personal development of students. By being exposed into a working environment, these individuals would be able to expose themselves with regard to their fields of expertise – gaining self-confidence and esteem.
            Also, communication skills are being exercised. Smilee believes that part of her experience as a SPES grantee is the opportunity to mingle with different types of people, such as her superiors, co-SPES grantees, and other members of the community.
            Supporting the youth through programs as SPES provided by DOLE and public and private establishments/organizations, it is not impossible to produce citizens that are ready enough to face the future, and make it brighter. (Ariesha Faith M. Dimaano)