By Chularat Saengpassa
Special to The Nation
He said he hopes this discussion will provide him with enough information to formulate an operation scheme under the national education plan, adding that he needs to know who will invest in which industrial sector and what basic infrastructure will be provided by the government and the quantity of the manpower needed in each industry.
Supat also said he wants a clear picture on the current number of available manpower, so the authorities can learn how many more are needed for which new industry and how many people are needed to be retrained and in which direction. He added that this information will help prevent an oversupply of certain skilled human resources.
“Jack Ma, for instance, is investing, but we don’t know how many workers he will need and for which fields. Or Airbus, for example, we don’t know yet whether it will build an aircraft hanger here or will only store aircraft parts,” he said.
Supat made this comment as he led education councillors as well as Deputy Education Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich’s assistant Narong Duding and PM’s Office special adviser Chaiyapruek Serirak to follow-up on the progress in vocational education management in line with the EEC at Chachoengsao Technical College, Sa Kaew College and Sa Kaew College of Agriculture and Technology last week.
The government has spent up to Bt800 billion in the EEC with the hope of creating a million jobs.
However, Supat said the development of manpower must be done for 11 industrial sectors rather than just training students in the existing vocational fields, which are useful as a foundation but require additional courses to cater to futuristic industries.
“The challenge is how will we create manpower that cater to futuristic industries, how will existing workers be retrained to obtain and apply new knowledge and technology at their workplace. You see, Amata Nakhon Industrial Estate has already trained their people and is supporting them to adapt. I’m not sure if what we have will cater to the 11 industries and who will be in charge of creating/training manpower, how many years it will take and if we will be ready in five years. For instance, with the electronic train industry, I have spoken to the Japanese company and they said the rail system will require no more than 6,000 workers, which means within a few years the manpower in this field will have gone beyond the demand,” he added.
Thailand produces about 10,000 IT graduates yearly, but only 18 per cent of them become programmers, while the rest go elsewhere, he said. “What we want to see clearly is which industrial groups will be investing here in the next three years and in six years so we can prepare human resources for them. We need to know how many are needed at the ‘Por Wor Chor’ vocational certificate level and how many at the ‘Por Wor Sor’ advanced vocational certificate level,” he added.
Meanwhile, Chaiyapruek said vocational education in special economic zones, as witnessed by the team during its visit to Nakhon Phanom and Tak as well as during this trip to Chachoengsao and Sa Kaew, was facing problems from ambiguity regarding which industries require manpower, how many are required and until when (to prevent the labour market from being oversupplied).
“Since there is no clarity, we are just providing normal vocational education. When the demand is unclear, we aim to turn the graduates into entrepreneurs,” he said.
The low birth rate in the country has also led to a battle for students between basic education institutes and vocational colleges, he noted, citing that many private vocational colleges had closed down because they could not keep up with the competition.
“The government should step in to help private vocational colleges, such as increasing the per-head subsidy at private colleges that meet standards, as well as create a network of private-public colleges so they can strengthen each other,” Chaiyapruek said in response to a representative of the Sa Kaew High-Tech College, who said they only had 200 students, who had enrolled and now did not know where else to go. The college is part of a network with the Pathum Thani College.
Wangnumyen Community College director Jarin Langsan said his institute had hundreds of Cambodian exchange students who inspired their Thai peers to study harder. He said many of the Cambodian graduates returned home to work, while some remained in Thailand and many climbed the corporate ladder quickly thanks to their English proficiency.
Many Cambodian students are keen to study in Thailand because of the scholarships on offer, which cover tuition fees and accommodation, he said.
“I want to overhaul Thai vocational education, but to do that, the government must invest more – not like now, where all the tools provided are similar to what was available 30 years ago. The teaching materials and tools provided must be better and the teaching staff should also be expanded. My college has 3,000 students with 19 civil servants [teachers] and 60 teaching assistants, who were hired on a yearly contract basis and have not had a raise for the past decade. If the budget and teaching positions are sufficient, I can produce graduates that cater to the needs of the EEC,” Jarin said.
Both Sa Kaew College director Jaral Lesing and Bang Pakong Vocational College director Anusit Khanatham said graduates from their schools – taught using the Dual Vocational (DVT) program – successfully secured jobs after graduation. Anusit further said that his college was ready to supply workers to the EEC as he was confident that the courses offered matched the industrial sector’s demands, such as courses in mechatronics and electrical power engineering, mechanics, printing technician and computer for business fields.
The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has approved the education development plan for the EEC for a five-year span from 2017 to 2021 with the main objective focusing on the development of language skills, technology use, new industry know-how and innovativeness. The ministry has also set up vocational human-resource development coordination centres in Chon Buri, Chachoengsao and Rayong with the goal of creating 200,000 workers in five years.