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Life can be hard in some parts of the Philippines. For those who are unemployed or have no skills to speak of, each day can be a struggle to put food on the table. Options are often limited to toiling in the fields for low pay. The dream of a better life remains, for most, just a dream.

The Malampaya deep-water, gas-to-power project signalled the birth of the natural gas industry in the Philippines.

Bayani Bayta

Bayani Bayta escaped a life in the fields to qualify as a welder

Two years ago, 30-year-old father of one Bayani Bayta was a farmer scraping a living off the land. “It was very hard. I earned just enough to survive day to day,” he says.

A radio commercial changed his life. It was for a training programme called Bridging Employment through Skills Training (BEST) run by the Malampaya Foundation, the social investment organisation founded and funded by Shell, Chevron and the Philippine National Oil Company - Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC). The three companies are the joint-venture partners behind the Malampaya deep-water, gas-to-power project.

Giving up a day’s pay, Bayani took the 100-km journey from his hometown to Palawan’s capital city, Puerto Princesa, where he made it to the final day of the BEST entrance exams.

He passed the entrance exam and did not look back.

Malampaya deep-water, gas-to-power project

The Malampaya deep-water, gas-to-power project signalled the birth of the natural gas industry in the Philippines

Skills for jobs

BEST scholars learn how to insulate piping

BEST scholars learn how to insulate piping

Through the BEST programme, young adults aged 21 to 35 are offered training in a broad range of skills like welding, scaffolding erection, pipeline fitting and pipeline insulation. These skills match the needs of local industries, so the chances of employment after graduation are high.

Since 2007, the Malampaya Foundation has helped more than 3,000 poor or unemployed young adults to escape the fields and equip themselves with the technical skills necessary to find well-paid jobs in the Philippines and overseas.

Once admitted to a course, students are known as “BEST scholars”. They receive, for instance, around 500 hours of training to become a fully qualified welder.

The Malampaya Foundation runs the BEST programme in the neighbouring communities of the Shell-operated Malampaya project, which is the largest industrial undertaking in the Philippines and supplies a quarter of the country’s energy needs.

A better life

After passing the entrance exam, Bayani travelled 1,000 km to Luzon where he trained and graduated as a welder. He is one of about 120 BEST graduates who have found jobs as scaffolders, riggers and welders in the Phase 3 expansion of the Malampaya project. The expansion consists of a new platform to sustain Malampaya’s current level of energy production.

Today, welder Bayani Bayta is one of more than 3,000 graduates of the BEST programme.

“Now I can pursue my dream to have a better life,” he says. “Many things have changed as a result of the BEST programme. Especially the pay I now earn.”

Fellow graduate Diesebel Rubi, 23, agrees: “The skill of welding and of doing it safely is my way to a better life. It is a treasure that no one can take away.”

Learn more about Bayani and Diesebel’s life stories in the video below.

Training welders in Malaysia

In Malaysia, Shell and Miri Vocational College recently celebrated 25 years of partnership in technical skills development with their ProjekLINK programme. Through the programme Shell helps young adults in local communities to become qualified welders. Skilled welders are in great demand in Malaysia, especially in the oil and gas industry. More than 800 young adults have been trained over the years, with more having completed the programme at two other locations in Malaysia.