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Overcoming the soft skills gap and COVID-19 challenges for women factory and office workers

In Business
News
Dec 17, 2020

The ILO, in partnership with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and Nestlé piloted the first In Business Online Soft Skills Training to develop soft skills of women and to support their livelihoods during COVID-19.

The COVID-19  pandemic has disproportionately affected women working in factories in the Philippines. Many are unable to work from home and face the double burden of caring responsibilities. In STEM-related industries, women further confront challenges of staying and progressing in their roles compared to their male counterparts.

To combat these overlapping inequalities and challenges, the International Labour Organization (ILO) under its Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Readiness and Development Programme , have collaborated with the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP)  and Nestlé Philippines  for the first In Business Online Soft Skills Training.

From a face-to-face training, the ILO enhanced the training with its first online version and piloted in the Philippines. The training aimed at providing critical soft skills, ensuring greater opportunities, and empowering women in their careers. It covers women workers both from factories and commercial offices.

“The In Business Online Soft Skills Training provides women an opportunity to develop their soft skills in the workplace, even while working from home or at keeping physical distance in workplaces. The COVID-19  has laid bare gender inequalities, and women face greater risks,” said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

The training modules on employability and leadership are designed for women workers to systematically address gender disparities in STEM.

By the beginning of 2021, over 300 Nestlé women employees – both from the factory line and administrative offices – will undergo the ILO Women in STEM ’s highly interactive and activity-based training project.

Blended learning and workplace safety

ILO, ECOP and Nestlé’s online In Business Soft Skills Training.

In the past, the ILO Women in STEM In Business training courses have taken place in person. Due to COVID-19  restrictions, the programme has been adapted to incorporate a blended learning approach so that it is held both offline and online. This combination enables workers who are in the factory to learn while keeping safe physical distance, and those working remotely can participate from their homes.

As factory workers are unable to work remotely, Nestlé  adjusted its workplaces to the new normal. Guidelines adhere to strict occupational safety and health standards with physical distancing and personal protective equipment on-site.

ILO and ECOP  have worked with Nestlé  to ensure that workers can learn in a collaborative and safe manner. Adapting the programme for blended learning is the first step to paving the future of skills development training during and after COVID-19.

“Safety is non-negotiable at Nestlé . This is the primary consideration in developing creative ways to deliver the ILO Women in STEM project  across our sites. We are proud to share this milestone with the ILO and ECOP, as we continue to strengthen our efforts and commitment to champion diversity through the empowerment of women,” said Carmen Melissa Antonio, Senior Vice President and Human Resources Director of Nestlé Philippines, Inc .

Supporting women workers during COVID-19

Women working in factories face multiple pandemic-related challenges, including additional caring responsibilities and having to adapt to digital tools. The ILO, ECOP , and Nestlé  have implemented a holistic approach to the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on female workers.

ECOP  has been a staunch advocate of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In October 2020, ECOP  launched its new Diversity and Inclusion Committee which will rally the efforts of employers in creating and raising awareness on diversity and inclusion within the business community.

“The pandemic-related challenges in the workplace in the past few months have made a big impact on how work is done, requiring employees to be more agile and resilient in these changing times. This highlighted the need for soft skills among employees. Employers must take active steps in ensuring that no employee is left behind,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis, ECOP  President.


For many factory workers, this will be the first time they will be attending online training. The ILO has supported guidance for them in adopting digital tools, from the basics of conference software to building confidence when speaking online.

By addressing the soft skills gap and specific impacts of the pandemic on women workers in both factories and commercial offices, the ILO, ECOP , and Nestlé  are adapting proven training methods to overcome evolving challenges to close gender inequalities in STEM.

The project is funded by JP Morgan , and is being piloted in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Find out more: ILO Women in STEM Project .

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