New TVET hub opened in EEC
Chevron Enjoy Science’s new TVET hub in the Eastern Economic Corridor will help produce skilled technicians for strategic industries
Thailand is the second-largest economy in ASEAN, yet for decades it has been caught in what economists call the “middle-income trap” — as wages grew, the country did not transition from labor-intensive industries to innovative industries. To address this issue, the Thai government unveiled its grand vision for Thailand 4.0, a national strategy in which all Thai people can take part in and benefit from sustainable economic development.
Thailand 4.0 envisions the country as a center for regional trade and investment and a strategic gateway to Asia. To achieve this, policymakers have set their sights on the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as a focal point of the country’s growth strategy. Consisting of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces, the EEC has been the center of much of Thailand’s heavy industry development over the last thirty years. Hopes for the EEC are high—many have called the EEC “the key to Thailand 4.0.”
In a bid to develop smart industries in Thailand, the government has announced tax incentives for investment in ten “S-Curve” sectors: next-gen automotives, biochemicals, future foods, medical hubs, robotics, aviation, smart electronics, biotechnology, wellness tourism and the digital sector. Last year, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) approved 203 projects worth 119.8 billion baht.
Gone is the agricultural economy of Thailand 1.0 and the light industry of Thailand 2.0; today, the government seeks to usher out the heavy industry of Thailand 3.0 for the innovation-driven industries of Thailand 4.0. Yet, as new companies take root in the EEC, new technologies are imported, and new factories and plants open their doors, who will operate and maintain the new machinery?
This gap in human resources is widely recognized. “Currently, our labor force is made up of more than 30 million people, and yet merely 6-8 million people, or 15% of the total labor force, have skills commensurate with industrial requirements,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Justice Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong at Chevron Enjoy Science’s TVET 4.0 conference in July.
Highly-skilled technicians are crucial to the success of innovative “S-Curve” industries arriving in the EEC. However, as educational leaders in Thailand have noted, the current education system churns out graduates better prepared for the repetitive labor of the Industrial Revolution than the 21st century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
To address this disparity between educational institutions and modern industry, this month Chevron Enjoy Science established a new technical and vocational education and training (TVET) hub in the EEC. The EEC hub expands Enjoy Science’s work with over 60 vocational colleges reaching over 166,000 vocational students, 1,000 teachers, and 350 school leaders across five existing hubs across Thailand. Programs include industry engagement with schools, teacher professional development, curriculum development, student internships, and more, depending on the specific needs and opportunities of each region.
The TVET hubs utilize seven strategies to prepare technical students for the modern workplace: (1) Establish a private sector engagement platform to directly link vocational institutions with employers; (2) serve as a sustainable center that responds to the manpower demands of regional industries and the education demands of local TVET students and teachers; (3) adopt international training models and enhance existing STEM and TVET curricula; (4) serve as a knowledge center for partnering schools, businesses, and industries, providing ongoing mentoring and quality assurance; (5) manage and distribute teaching materials to participating schools; (6) develop interactive and practical training approaches and curricula; and (7) develop student internship programs with partnering businesses and industries.
Voices across industry and government agree on the importance of fostering skilled technicians to drive Thailand’s economic development forward. In order for technical students to succeed in higher vocational classes, a strong foundation in STEM is especially important for any field of specialization.
Mr. Pravit Prakitsri, Chief Operating Officer of the Renewable Energy Business Group at the Mitr Phol Group, emphasized at the TVET 4.0 Conference that teachers must adopt new techniques to galvanize students’ interest in learning. He urged teachers to demonstrate that the purpose of learning is to build the nation and society, and to make a contribution larger than oneself.
“We would like the private sector to participate or to contribute as it will be, in the end, a win-win for them too,” the BOI Secretary-General Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit told Nikkei Asian Review. “We see human resources development as the key for our success in the future.”