Universities, industry tackle labour market mismatch
Four heads of higher education institutes and the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) have joined forces to solve the problem of a mismatch of supply and demand of labour force and skills.
The Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT), the Council of Rajabhat University Presidents of Thailand, the Council of Rajamangala University Presidents of Thailand and the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions of Thailand set up a special committee Tuesday to tackle the problem.
CUPT president Suchatvee Suwansawat said the committee wants greater collaboration between universities and industry in four areas.
Under that, universities will ask the industrial sector to help update their curriculums, and co-develop and design new courses needed by industries. Secondly, industries will send experts to teach and train students and set up labs at universities.
"Students' apprenticeship will be extended from three months to a year in order to help them get more hands-on experience. Lastly, universities have asked industrial firms to be fair in recruitment and ensure that students from all educational institutions are hired without discrimination," Mr Suchatvee said.
Chen Namchaisiri, chairman of the FTI, said even though 500,000-600,000 new graduates emerge from Thai universities every year, the industrial sector still faces a labour shortage.
He said the shortage of labour in many businesses results from the mismatch of job-seekers' skills and job requirements.
"Graduates who have degrees in science are in great demand now, but 70% of new graduates hold social science degrees," Mr Chen said.
"Many Thai universities have yet to develop and provide faculties that meet industrial demand, so we need to build sustainable linkages between universities and industry to improve workforce management," he added.
Mr Chen said educational institutes need to provide courses and set up faculties in keeping with the Thailand 4.0 policy and encourage students to study more in vocational and engineering fields.
He warned that the unemployment rate among new graduates otherwise will continue to rise.
"Eighty-five percent of new graduates with university degrees have to spend longer than six months seeking employment. Many of those who are waiting to be employed opt to continue their education with a master's degree programme, and some even choose to go down the path of self-employment," he said.
Moreover, many fresh employees often need skills training before they can actually work as they are not well-equipped with the employability skills needed by industry such as digital literacy, English literacy and functional competencies.
"The FTI will work closely with universities under the special committee to ensure that students will be equipped with these skills," he said.
Mr Suchatvee said universities are aware of the situation and have adjusted themselves to keep up with rapid changes in labour market.
"As the world changes, businesses must be ready at a moment's notice to adjust business models," he said. "We as educators must be ready to do the same."