Having succeeded in raising Thailand’s ratio of vocational students to 39.7 per cent this year – inching towards the government’s goal of 50 per cent – the Office of Vocational Education Commission (OVEC) head Suthep Chittayawong has vowed to boost it further.
Suthep said at a recent summit that his office is working with other agencies and companies to boost student knowledge in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, as well as technical skills, to cater to the demands of Thai Industry 4.0.
Private sector agencies have been collaborating with OVEC to increase the skills of vocational students, he said.
The office has worked with those involved in the “Chevron Enjoy Science” project, as well as the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC), the Eastern Economic Corridor Office (EECO) and the Board of Investment (BOI) to train workers to match the demands of the industries being wooed to locate in the Eastern Economic Corridor.
The emphasis is on feeding vocationally trained personnel to the 10 target industries, or S-Curve industries. The main focus is the four industries of automotive and parts, energy, food processing and microelectronics. Collaborating with foreign agencies that have the needed expertise was also taking place, Suthep said.
The result of all these collaborations, he said, would be the creation of “quality vocational students” with the capacity to answer the demands of the industrial sector, including being able to think, analyse, problem-solve and create innovations.
The Chevron Enjoy Science project aims to increase and augment “2S” or “STEM + Skills”, after research suggested that it was at the heart of producing capable and skilled technicians able to use advanced technology, said Artit Krichphiphat, general manager for business support at Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd.
The research finding also calls for boosting 2S among vocational teachers. Once caught up on new technology, those teachers relay their knowledge to the new generation of technicians, Artit said. New graduates must be able to think logically, calculate, analyse, and communicate in more than one language. As well, they needed to possess leadership and social skills, in addition to having the necessary skills to operate newer machines.
Kenan Institute Asia president Piyabutr Cholvijarn said that, besides working to boost “2S”, the project also sets up five technical and vocational education and training (TVET) hubs nationwide.
They will support improvements to the basic curricula, the application of technology and the revision of vocational instructors’ teaching methods, while maintaining close collaboration with the business sector.
The TVET hubs have a key target to produce skilled technicians, with many graduates expected to work in the automotive and parts, energy, food processing and microelectronics industries.
The project hopes that technicians would play a part in driving the use of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the areas served by the TVET hubs, Piyabutr said.
The Chevron Enjoy Science project’s objective is to lift Thailand’s competitiveness by improving STEM education at the general and vocational levels. It has entered its fourth year of operation.
Five TVET hubs have so far been established out of a target of six hubs nationwide and have benefited 110,000 individuals.
Suthip, Artit and Piyabutr were speaking at a recent forum titled “Vocational 4.0 Capability for the Future”, hosted in Bangkok by the Chevron Enjoy Science project.