The Education Ministry has initiated a mechanism to develop the vocational workforce in 10 skill clusters through a dual educational system providing both academic training and work experience.
Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who chairs the Public and Private Participation Committee for Vocational Education Development, said the panel would this month establish a subcommittee for each cluster. They are automobiles and parts, moulds, energy, food, tourism, gems and jewellery, construction, electricity and electronics, logistics, and information and communications technology.
The committee will require each cluster to start an action plan including English-language training.
However, the Federation of Thai Industries noted that the petrochemical and garment clusters were also facing a lack of skilled workers. The FTI also suggested that experts in personnel development and curriculum reform be appointed for each cluster.
Chaturon said: “The establishment of the Public and Private Participation Committee for Vocational Education Development is regarded as a national collaboration to set up a national plan for both supply and qualification [of vocational workers]. Previously, there was [only] collaboration between vocational institutes and manufacturers to serve demand in some local areas.”
He explained that each cluster would be responsible for surveying and assessing demand for a skilled workforce, designing a new curriculum to meet the demand of enterprises, and evaluating income and incentives for students who obtain the professional certificate (Por Vor Chor) and high professional certificate (Por Vor Sor).
Meanwhile, the Office of the Vocational Education Commission has to accelerate efforts to increase the number of vocational students at both levels. The commission will encourage more Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) students to study in vocational fields through various campaigns including study guidance, inspiration, scholarships and social-value creation.
“To encourage students to be more interested in vocational studies, we have to assure parents that the students will have a great chance to get the jobs and career paths,” said Chaturon.
Piyaman Tejapaibul, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said the subcommittee on the tourism cluster needed to produce personnel urgently. It is estimated that the number of foreign tourists to Thailand next year will increase to 28 million, and to 30 million in 2015. Moreover, it is essential to develop tourism personnel’s capabilities in preparation for the Asean Economic Community.
Initially, the tourism subcommittee will focus on three areas for designing the central curriculum. Teachers will get direct experience in the tourism industry; a dual vocational-education system will be provided, that is, including actual work experience; and both academic and basic technical skills will be stressed.
In the long-term plan, the subcommittee will run campaigns to promote tourism professions among students at the primary, secondary and vocational levels.
Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that the private sector must participate in the development of vocational education. Each cluster has to set benchmarks and compare them with international standards. In addition, each cluster has to consider how to enhance the teachers’ standards.
Thavorn Chalassathien, acting secretary-general of the FTI, said it was estimated that over the next five years, 16 clusters under the federation would need at least 300,000 skilled workers. Besides inadequate numbers of vocational students, major subjects of the vocational-education system are not in compliance with the needs of operators.
In addition to the establishment of Public and Private Participation Committee, the Vocational Education Commission has created a scholarship scheme as another urgent measure to increase the number of vocational students.
Chaiyapruek Serirak, secretary-general of Ovec, said the scheme had been designed to help Grade 9 students with a grade point average over 2.70, with good manners, and from poor families to study for professional and high professional certificates.
State enterprises and the private sector will be encouraged to participate in the scheme by granting a scholarship for five years worth Bt20,000 per student per year. The commission expects that about 10,000 students will get the scholarships each year.