Thailand: Innovation and Skills will Generate More Jobs

March 22, 2012

  • Skills shortages have become Thailand’s biggest obstacle to doing business.
  • Thailand has implemented reforms to increase work skills that will generate better, higher-paying jobs.
  • Training students to think more independently, investing in teachers, and linking education institutions to potential employers can be key to this change.

Bangkok, March 22, 2012 --Ornicha Tantiwechwuttikul, who is finishing her final term in university, will be among Thailand’s thousands who are looking for a job this year. She will have a degree in Economics but is also armed with on-the-job training experience and practical skills from extra classes she has taken on the side of her core curricula.

“What I learn from university is very theoretical. So I also took classes in marketing and finance, which is more practical. I’d even consider going to the free talks offered by the Stock Exchange of Thailand. All of these are directly related to and will help me get the job I want after I graduate- either in a marketing company or in a bank,” she says.

A good education is the source of skills

By building their skills, Thai students like Ornicha are giving themselves an edge in the job market. Thailand has recognized the role a good education plays in matching the skills of the labor force with those required by employers. It implemented National Education Reform plans to modernize the system since 1999.

“The Government is rightly placing human capital at the center of its growth strategy. Enhancing work skills and increasing innovation is part of the country’s strategy to move to a more creative economy. This will produce higher incomes and reduce poverty,” says Hana Brixi, Senior Economist and lead author of the World Bank’s Leading with Ideas: Skills for Growth and Equity in Thailand report.

She adds: “Thailand is a good place to do business- it has quality infrastructure and is attractive to investors. However, countries that can only offer multinational partners a cheap and disciplined workforce will be overtaken by those that have better-educated and trained workers. Skills shortages have become Thailand’s biggest obstacle to doing business,”

Reforms and Innovation

The World Bank is supporting the National Economic and Social Board of Thailand by looking at possible solutions for improving workforce skills and innovation.

  • Starting right - Iodine deficiency is a serious problem in Thailand. It erodes the intellectual capacities of children and negatively affects their learning and productivity later in life. Government intervention, through laws and regulations for universal salt iodization, can curb iodine deficiency disorders.
  • Encouraging students to innovate - Thai students can solve technology-related problems better if schools can connect them to the labor market. Providing them with the tools to acquire and effectively utilize new knowledge also helps.

    “I was an exchange student in the United States last year and noticed that students there are better at critical-thinking. They are more open with their ideas, they don’t necessarily accept what teachers say right away, they dare to challenge them too. We (Thai students) tend to lack analytical skills. I think it comes from the kind of education we’ve been receiving since primary school--- we are not trained to think more creatively,” says Ms. Tantiwechwuttikul.
  • Investing in teachers - Employers have reported serious shortages of skills in math, science, English, IT, entrepreneurship, and critical thinking. Efforts to improve teacher quality could emphasize these areas in teachers training.

    Since teacher quality is crucial, the best students can be encouraged to join the profession. Offering more scholarships may encourage top students to take on a teaching job.
  • Linking education institutions and training centers with future employers - Collaboration can take on many forms: joint research projects, the involvement of employers in curriculum revisions, and short-term training programs offered by universities to upgrade workers.
  • Ensuring quality of education nationwide - Thailand can provide employers with better information on the kind of training the workforce has undergone by improving on its testing and certification systems. Thailand is currently considering the implementation of National Qualification Frameworks, which define qualifications, certify skills, and set competency standards for higher and vocational education.

    Improving the quality of primary and secondary education in disadvantaged communities will also add to Thailand’s number of strong performers. It will widen the pool of candidates for university to those who live beyond Bangkok.
  • Streamlining functions across all education agencies will make them more efficient in rolling out policies and tasks. In addition, involving parents can also improve school performance.