Jakarta April 20, 2011 - Skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the labor market are vital to improve employment outcomes and increase productivity. However, education and training systems in East Asian countries, including Indonesia, often lack quality and relevance, leaving workers ill-prepared to meet demands of the labor market. Identifying and reducing skills gaps, improving employability and productivity were some topics discussed at the Skills Development for Productivity conference in Jakarta to help respond to these challenges.
The 3-day conference was opened on March 21, involving policy makers from nine East Asian countries. Participants ranging from governments, industry groups, education, and training providers explored ways for education and training systems to improve quality and relevance of skills supply to enhance employability and productivity.
These are timely issues for Indonesia, because as the Deputy Ministry of National Education, Fasli Jalal, stated in his opening remarks, “Indonesia is now at a deciding transition whether the country will grow and prosper by maximizing its human resources or continue to be a developing country.” World Bank’s Vice President for East Asia Pacific, James Adams, also emphasized the importance of skills development saying that, “There needs to be a continuous and timely supply of skilled human resources to support Indonesia's growth.”
Tamar Manyuelan Atinc, World Bank Vice President, Human Development Network, gave a keynote presentation focused on trends in the region compared to other parts of the world, and included an introduction to the World Bank STEP framework for skills development, which encourages a life cycle view starting with early childhood and ending with employment information and skills matching.
Among the efforts by Indonesia to improve its skills is a revitalization of training centers. In 2011, there are 237 government-owned training centers throughout Indonesia and the government plans to increase it to 313. The Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, Muhaimin Iskandar, said that his Ministry has proposed to the National Development Planning Board and Finance Ministry to access the country’s educational budget allocation. “Revitalizing training centers requires a large amount of fund and would need collaboration between several government ministries,” said Muhaimin Iskandar, Minister for Manpower and Transmigration.
By the end of the conference, the Cambodia and Mongolia teams concluded that they should conduct employer surveys to learn more about the demand for skills. The Vietnam and Laos teams decided to focus more on the needs of the informal sector, and try to get away from thinking about certificates to thinking about skills. Malaysia and Thailand delegates agreed that they should make a great deal more effort in getting employers more involved in defining competencies, and review skills gaps with industry input. The Philippine and China teams wanted to learn from bad as well as good experiences of other countries, and to consider issues of labor mobility in their skills development planning.
A presentation on National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) was a reminder of the importance of having a clear focus on outcomes, and avoiding developing such frameworks ‘because everyone else has one’, and pointed out the strong need to evaluate the potential usefulness of an NQF before embarking on design work.
Delegates also learned how Singapore and Malaysia are supporting skills development through innovative public private partnerships, how the ‘ni ni’ (neither educated nor employed) generation in Latin America is being empowered through 6 month work experience programs, and how Indonesia is planning to revitalize its public training centers following a recent study.