THE University of the Philippines Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Spain-based Asociación de Centros de Formación Profesional (FPEmpresa) have signed an agreement to cooperate in areas of common interest, such as education, training and research, primarily on vocational education and training (VET).
FPEmpresa, a nonprofit association of Spain's public, semi-private and private VET centers, and SEARCA forged a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in a virtual signing ceremony on Jan. 24, 2024.
The five-year MoU was signed by SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio and FPEmpresa President and board member Luis García Domínguez, with associate professor Joselito Florendo, SEARCA deputy director for administration, and Carlos de Olagüe Smithson, FPEmpresa coordinator Madrid and International and board member, as witnesses.
The signing ceremony was also attended by some FPEmpresa board members and international project staff, as well as SEARCA staff who have been involved in the series of discussions to identify the initial collaborations between the two organizations.
Under the MoU, Gregorio said SEARCA and FPEmpresa will collaborate on capacity development programs, such as mobilities and training, as well as on knowledge resource projects, by connecting FPEmpresa's VET centers to SEARCA or specific schools and organizations from the latter's network of partners and stakeholders.
In June 2023, Gregorio said SEARCA and FPEmpresa began exploring areas for collaboration after being introduced by Beatriz Jimeno Ortas, education advisor, Embassy of Spain in the Philippines. Ortas also participated during the signing ceremony on behalf of the Spanish Embassy and the Spanish Ministry of Education, Vocational Training and Sports.
"This partnership contributes to fulfilling SEARCA's vision to reach wider networks of partners and stakeholders. SEARCA and FPEmpresa share a common goal of bringing together various stakeholder groups to create a community of best practices and build capacity toward sustainable development," Gregorio said in his message during the signing ceremony.
Highlighting SEARCA's current five-year plan on Accelerating Transformation through Agricultural Innovation or ATTAIN, Gregorio said the center recognizes the importance of VET in achieving this.
He also expressed hopes that this partnership will start more collaborations with Spain.
Domínguez affirmed this, as he sees the identified collaborative activities as the first step in improving VET in Spain and initially in the Philippines.
Facilitating the discussions between the two institutions, Ortas echoed this as she attested to everyone's commitment to fostering international cooperation "to open doors to new possibilities for our teachers and students alike."
"The MoU is an instrument to unite organizations sharing common interests in the pursuit of excellence in vocational training and higher education related to agricultural studies," she said, emphasizing its significance for all the governments the attendees represent.
Smithson has also been in all the discussions leading up to the signing of the MoU. He mentioned some of these activities and thanked the Embassy of Spain for linking the two institutions.
SEARCA deputy director for programs Nur Azura Binti Adam also shared some initial steps taken about these activities and expressed excitement about what lies ahead for the SEARCA-FPEmpresa partnership this year.
After the signing ceremony, SEARCA and FPEmpresa, led by Ortas, also discussed the plans to kickstart their collaboration this year.
Spain is an associate member country of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), a regional intergovernmental organization established to promote cooperation in education, science and culture in Southeast Asia.
SEARCA is one of the 26 SEAMEO specialist institutions located across the region.