Nation faces worker shortfall
Thailand may need to import foreign, blue-collar workers in the near future if it cannot increase the number of graduates from domestic vocational colleges, according to the director of the Office for National Education standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA).
Channarong Pornrungroj said a total of 213,373 students currently study at 751 vocational and technical schools and colleges nationwide.
The latest statistics collected by ONESQA shows the proportion of vocational to academic education is 29:71, which can supply only 20,000 vocational graduates a year while Thai industrial sectors need around 180,000 positions filled a year, Mr Channarong said.
"The proportion of vocational education compared to academic education for Thailand should actually be 60:40, but now it's reversed and it could get worse.
"If things don't change, Thailand might need to import skilled labourers to supply industrial sector [demands]," he said.
Moreover, ONESQA’s third-cycle assessment has also found that there are only 75 colleges among these 748 accredited institutions which have been rated with very good scores, or 10.03% of all the accredited vocational colleges. There are 142 vocational colleges that failed to pass the evaluation, he said.
As a solution, Mr Channarong pointed out that Thailand needs to change its curriculum standards from 6-3-3 (elementary school six years, secondary school three years, senior high school three years) back to 7-3-2 (elementary school seven years, secondary school three years, senior high school two years) as it was in the past.
Furthermore, he said industrial sectors should raise their base salaries for vocational workers to the same level as employees who graduated from bachelor degree programmes.
The most important thing is to change people's negative attitude towards vocational schools, which will take time, he said.
He added that in 2015 ONESQA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Taiwan Assessment and Evaluation Association on cooperation in exchanging experiences on external quality assessments for joint accreditation of vocational and technical education.