Twenty-four year old Jonard Antonio's dream of working abroad came true when he was hired as a welder in Saudi Arabia a few months after he finished a vocational course at Bulalacao Technical Vocational College (BTVC) in Oriental Mindoro.

His background as a member of a cultural minority did not serve as a hindrance to get his current job and indeed, his exploits is now the talk of the town and thing of inspiration among his peers belonging to Hanunuo tribal people.

Hanunuo, one of the eight Mangyan tribes in Mindoro, are particularly concentrated in Bulalacao, the southernmost town in the province of Oriental Mindoro.

Jonard belongs to the first batch of scholars, who finished the Shielded Metal Arch Welding (SMAW) training course, a vocational curriculum accredited by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Unlike other schools which offer the same course, trainees at BTVC are required to complete a 475 hours of training before they can obtain their SMAW certificates, which serve as their passport to rewarding jobs in the different industries outside the province particularly in the construction sector.

Elmer B. Campillos, 56, BTVC supervisor, said their curriculum includes the strict implementation of general safety rules which is the preliminary condition before students are allowed to use the college laboratory where modern machines and other welding equipment are being kept.

Elmer said that although they have not yet attained the ideal 1:2 welding machine-student ratio (one machine for every two student-users), he instead put more emphasis in closely supervising the practical training of students to produce quality graduates.

Elmer’s perseverance as welding supervisor did not go to naught when majority of the graduates easily found a job after graduation and 28 of them, including Jonard, are now working in Saudi Arabia, where the demand for welders, even with only SMAW background, is high.