The government is attempting to reform the vocational-education system to meet the private sector's manpower needs better.
Education Minister Jaturon Chaisaeng said: “Our objective is to produce vocational students whose qualifications and skills are in line with employers’ expectations.
“The country requires a lot of new workers who are competent and competitive for various mega-schemes such as the Bt2-trillion infrastructure projects or the Bt350-billion projects on water-resources management. Thailand is also working with other Asean countries as well as China, which will result in more exports and tourist arrivals.
“The reform [of the vocational-education system] is to meet the demands of employers. For example, the government and tourism sector are working together to get more specific data, such as how many more hotel employees or guides are needed or which manufacturing industries need how many more workers with vocational education.
“Both the government and private sector will also jointly design the curriculum as well as suitable training programmes, which should be organised at the employers’ premises or factories and so on to get real-life experience in addition to classroom education.
“This will help make sure that the students get jobs after graduation, and they could even get some compensation while undergoing the training programme.
“The Education Ministry will also work with Germany, Australia, Japan and China. These countries have large foreign-direct-investment projects in Thailand. For example, I recently signed an agreement with China to use its model of vocational-school training in a pilot project here.
“Chinese investors in Thailand will also advise us on their human-resource needs such as the required skills for jobs in their enterprises or factories here, or they may require Chinese-language training.
“Certification of technical skills is also very important. Now, there are Por Vor Chor, Por Vor Sor and then university-level certification. We need to introduce more specific qualifications for various technical skills such as electricians, mechanics, and construction technicians.
“In the tourism sector, we also need more specific professional qualifications such as for those working in hotels. Some vocational-school graduates now get higher salaries than those with college degrees who have no tourism or hotel experience.
“We also want to change the image of Thai vocational schools, which are often associated with violent behaviour. Those who are successful will be asked to be the new role models. Today, about 300,000 students are in vocational schools while about 600,000 go to universities annually, which lead to an oversupply of human resources whose skills are not matching those required by employers.”
Akkaphol Preuksawan, adviser to the Council of Tourism Industry, said: “We have started to work with the Education Ministry to prepare vocational students for jobs in the tourism, hotel and related industries.
“Last year, tourist arrivals in Thailand rose 16 per cent to 22 million. This year, the first 10 months saw 21 million arrivals and we expect to end the year with up to 26 million arrivals.
“At least 12,000 hotels nationwide need more than 580,000 employees. The annual growth rate is around 10 per cent, so there is a shortage of manpower, especially at operational levels.
“About 140 of the 400-plus state and private vocational schools have hotel and tourism courses. More than 100 hotels have applied to provide training and internships to these students. We also have to meet the Asean standards on tourism, hotel and related professions.”
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, vice chairman of Board of Trade, said: “The board is working with the Education Ministry to help train vocational students in seven areas, namely logistics, retail and wholesale, fisheries and related industries, livestock, gems and jewellery, textiles, and construction.
“The Federation of Thai Industries is responsible for the rest of the industries. We’re finalising a projection on the demand for human resources in these fields with a view towards 2015 when Thailand joins the Asean Economic Community.”