By Pratch Rujivanarom
Regional initiative aimed at providing students with the training to become skilled workers
A VOCATIONAL education initiative by the Southeast Asia Technical and Vocational Education and Training (SEA-TVET) was undertaken in Ubon Ratchathani province last week to harmonise vocational education in the region and enhance the quality of local workers.
As the Asean Economic Community will be officially be launched in a little over a month from now, an effort is being made to connect vocational education in Asean plus Timor-Leste with the help of a country-level workshop entitled SEA-TVET Harmonisation and Mobility.
The workshop was hosted by the Office of the Vocational Education Commission (VEC) with the help of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and partnered by the British Council.
Chaipreuk Sereerak, secretary-general of VEC, said this was the second workshop of its kind and it represented another step in fostering a three-year action plan to connect vocational education in the member states and improve the vocational education standard.
“In this conference, we are trying to come out with a plan and possibility to arrange the harmonisation of TVET curriculum in the member states together. We are also trying to achieve the internationalisation of study programmes and set up the same education standard throughout the region,” Chaipreuk said.
Paulino Henrique, an attachfrom the Timor-Leste Embassy, said the SEA-TVET will be very beneficial to Timor-Leste, which is still lagging behind other countries in vocational education because of the lack of infrastructure for education.
Lack of skilled workers
Henrique revealed that Timor-Leste was confronted with a lack of skilled workers in the country, and by participating in this framework, it will learn and get help from other countries to improve its vocational education and training.
Zalihar Abdul Ghani, director of the Malaysian Technical and Vocational Education Division, said the framework was established at the right time to help Malaysia solve the problem of labour shortages and the lack of expertise in specific fields.
“Malaysia is now having a problem with the maritime industry, because this field is rather new to us. By working on this framework, it allows us to learn from countries that have more experience in this field, such as Brunei,” Ghani said.
She said the cooperation on vocational education will also solve the problem of unskilled immigrant workers in her country. Since Malaysia attracts many unskilled Vietnamese labours, she said, the vocational study improvements in Vietnam will ensure that the Vietnamese workers who go to find work in Malaysia will have sufficient skills.
Chaipreuk said that that in the first stage, the SEA-TVET will prioritise six vocational study fields: hospitality and tourism, electronics and manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries, construction, commerce and banking, and marine-maritime. He said these fields are important to the current labour market trend in the region.
“Every country will choose to mobilise on areas that are significant to their economy, suit their labour needs and that they are traditionally good at; for instance, Thailand will focus on hospitality and tourism because we are the major tourist destination,” he explained.
“While other countries such as Vietnam may pay attention to |agriculture and so on and then we share our experience together,” he said.
He admitted that the imparity of the TVET curriculum and education system between the countries was a major barrier of this framework. However, he assured that by closely working together as partners, the countries can easily manage this problem through negotiation and adjustment processes.
As for the progress of the framework, Sharifuddin Salleh, director of SEAMEO, said they were halfway through the journey of harmonising the TVET in the region and that most of the member states had already lent their support.