Thailand faces an imminent shortage of engineers, so the government needs to invest to transform the education system and make science more attractive to children.
France-based Dassault Systemes, a producer of 3-D design software and product life-cycle management solutions, believes this is an important issue as Thai companies step up the value chain.
"One of the opportunities you have is there are many tier-one suppliers [for the automotive industry] that are growing in momentum and autonomy," said executive vice-president Philippe Forestier during his latest visit to Thailand.
Education is one of the first things companies look at, apart from the cost of labour and other incentives, he said, adding that the minimum wage hike is not unique to Thailand and thus would not be a major hindrance.
"More focus is needed by the government to promote higher education to ensure that industries who want to set up in this country have skilled resources and skilled engineers," he said.
Dassault Systemes provides solutions across industrial sectors including the automotive, high-tech, engineering, construction and aerospace segments.
Mr Forestier said local companies are getting more added-value work from large companies such as Toyota and Honda, which demand they maintain a leading edge in competitiveness and innovation. But there is a skills shortage in Thailand, particularly in engineering skills.
"We need to change the education curricular to better incentivise students, starting as early as 10 or 11 years old, to give them an appetite for science so they will be willing to become engineers," he said.
The world is said to have a shortage of 1 million engineers, despite countries like India and China churning out 2 million, said Mr Forestier.
"The world in general lacks engineers and people who are willing to become engineers. Education systems have not provided enough of an appetite for science in young boys and girls, so they choose other fields," he said.
As engineering graduates are on the decline, European and Asian countries have begun to address their higher education modules to make science more attractive.
"Designing innovative solutions and creating multidisciplinary education focused on visuals will increase the receptiveness of young boys and girls to science, and more of them will want to become engineers," said Mr Forestier.
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- Writer: Soonya Vanichkorn