Linking educational and professional qualifications helps promote life-long learning and encourages Thai workers to obtain practical knowledge and skills that are suitable for both national and international labour markets
Harmonising professional qualifications and standards across 10 countries is part of the AEC integration process. By Tanyatorn Tongwaranan
What if you could take an exam in one country, get a certificate, and work in another country? Wouldn’t it be great if you could start a business secure in the knowledge that the people that work for you have the skill levels you’re looking for?
As Asean integration draws closer, Thailand and other member countries are moving toward equivalent professional qualification standards that will allow people to move around freely in the region for work.
The Asean Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF), as the system is known, “will enable comparisons of workers’ qualifications across member states to promote workers’ mobility across the region”, said Kornsuang Pirom, the deputy director-general of the Thailand Professional Qualification Institute (TPQI).
The AQRF is one of many attempts to harmonise standards across the region as it prepares for the flow of goods, services and skilled workers after the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in December 2015.
“We aim to develop occupational standards for major business sectors so that the workers can be certified. Their skills will be assessed by a certification body and they will know which qualification levels they are in,” said Ms Kornsuang.
The institute is using Thailand’s National Qualifications Framework as the guideline to assess the learning progress of individuals as it links educational with professional qualifications.
“This helps promote life-long learning and encourages Thai workers to obtain practical knowledge and skills that are suitable for both national and international labour markets. This professional qualification is intended to be compatible with the Asean Qualification through collaboration among Asean member states in the future,” she added.
By way of example, Ms Kornsuang said that the TPQI collaborated with Indonesia over the past year to improve professional qualifications for five spa professions. At the end of this month, the spa associations in Thailand and Indonesia will hold a workshop about spa occupational standards and qualifications. She hopes that this pilot project will be a model for the country while preparing Thai workers to face the new demands and opportunities of the AEC.
However, while harmonised standards look good on paper, there are those in business and education circles who wonder how evenly the system can be applied across 10 countries.
“These occupational standards should be developed and updated by each industry in order to meet their requirements. The certifying bodies should also be accredited regularly by an independent agency to ensure that the certificates they give out are always trustworthy and credible in all occupational sectors,” said Dr Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute.
Having clear occupational standards, she says, can bring benefits to industry. For example, they can help inform employers about workers’ competence to perform in an industry. In addition, if employers offer certain wages and benefits to workers who meet occupational standards, this can motivate workers to improve their skills for career development.
For such a system to be a success, however, the educational system in Thailand, as the “heart” of the country, needs to be taken more seriously, said Dr Saowaruj.
“There is still great room for improvement in the Thai vocational educational system. High-skilled workers are the result of a good education and training system and this country should invest efficiently to improve the quality of education and training,” she said.
The TPQI aims to collaborate more actively with educational institutions once the occupational standard is well-established.
“In the future, if the TPQI is able to promote the use of occupational standards as the basis for vocational qualifications, it will further help to produce workers that meet industry demand at the early stage,” says Dr Saowaruj.
Currently, the institute is in the process of establishing collaboration with other countries in Asean including Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines in various business sectors such as logistics and ICT.
“We will move closer to the ideology of ‘One Vision, One Identity, One Community’ once all member states in Asean agree to exchange knowledge and experiences among one another,” said Ms Kornsuang.
First published: Bangkok Post, May 26, 2014