A shortfall of 15,000 teachers of mechanical studies is threatening attempts to reform the country's education system.
Making matters worse is that many of the remaining teachers possess "outdated" technological knowledge, Yongyut Chalaemwong, director for labour development at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said yesterday.
The aim to increase the proportion of vocational students in the overall student population from the present 40% to 60% within five years will become much harder to realise unless the government does more to address the shortage of mechanics instructors in vocational schools, Mr Yongyut said.
"We must speed up the production and development of engineering teachers as we presently have a shortage of 15,000 staff," Mr Yongyut said.
The Education Ministry has tried to make up the difference by hiring casual staff but there are not enough new teachers coming into the system to make up the shortfall.
Mr Yongyut said the ministry should look at providing engineering graduates with more incentives to take up a teaching career in vocational schools.
"Up to 10,000 engineering graduates are unemployed," he said.
But the incentives and career path must be made attractive enough to lure these people into teaching.
The ministry also needs to sharpen the teaching skills of existing mechanics instructors and equip those who have fallen behind in their knowledge with information on what new is happening in their field, Mr Yongyut said.
Only then can the national education reform go ahead with the plan to attract about 500,000 more students to vocational schools in the next five years - a move requiring another 20,000 mechanics instructors.
Mr Yongyut said the government also needed to work with students and their parents to develop an interest in undertaking vocational studies.
Only 40% of senior high school students take the vocational track where they major in mechanics or commerce. The majority prefer general studies aimed at winning them a place at a university.