Adapting to the fast changing skills demand with apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are important as they are proven effective in adapting to changing skills demand of the economy, a cost-effective and proven method of providing skills to people. Kazutoshi Chatani, ILO's Employment Specialist, explained about the benefits and advantages of the apprenticeship programmes.

Analysis | Jakarta, Indonesia | 28 June 2019
Kazutoshi Chatani, ILO's Employment Specialist

Why is it important to held apprenticeship in Indonesia?

Apprenticeships are important because they are fast in adapting to changing skills demand of the economy, and a cost-effective and proven method of improving people's skills. Skills demand changes as we advance technologies, invent new business models and change our consumption behaviors. For instance, we were still using a blackberry phone five to six years ago. Now we use smart phones.

Just five years ago, we did not order food, book transportation and buy tickets using hand phones. Now we do. Jobs relating to online applications did not exist just a few years ago. We witness significant changes in skills needs of the economy.

Do the education and training system respond quickly to the changes?

Apprenticeships are quick enough to respond to changing skills needs because they involve enterprises in the design and delivery of training. The enterprises also catch the early sign of changes. Apprenticeships are cost-effective because they utilize existing resources of the private sector. If you imagine, vocational school and training centers having to purchase machines and equipment as new technologies come in, it is going to be quite expensive.

Then you come to think of signing agreements with enterprises and asking them to provide practical training using their experienced workers and latest machines. As you see, if vocational education and training institutions collaborate with enterprises, skills development can be achieved in a cost-effective manner.

What is the standard definition of quality apprenticeship by ILO?

Apprenticeships are systematic and structured approaches to building knowledge, practical skills and soft skills required to perform an occupation.

Whichever occupation you take, workers need to have occupation specific knowledge, practical skill and soft skills. If you package them in a one-to-four year training programme and a school and enterprises deliver it jointly, that’s apprenticeships in essence.

Quality apprenticeships, which the ILO promotes, come with a written contract, social protection coverage, wages and allowances as agreed by social partners, clear definitions of roles and responsibilities of the apprentice and the employer.

Quality Apprenticeships are a unique form of technical vocational education and training, combining on-the-job training and off-the-job learning, which enable learners from all walks of life to acquire the knowledge, skills and competencies required to carry out a specific occupation. They are regulated and financed by laws and collective agreements and policy decisions arising from social dialogue, and require a written contract that details the respective roles and responsibilities of the apprentice and the employer; they also provide the apprentice with remuneration and standard social protection coverage. Following a clearly defined and structured period of training and the successful completion of a formal assessment, apprentices obtain a recognized qualification.

What types of programmes have been taken by the ILO with its social partners? 

The ILO would like to promote collaboration between enterprises and vocational education and training institutions. We generate publications, video clips to showcase good practices, organize workshops and meetings and provide technical advice to policymakers and social partners.

How the apprenticeship could escalate job quality and reduce unemployment?

Apprenticeships reduces skills mismatch and facilitate school-to-work transition of youth and jobseekers of all ages, which help reduce unemployment.

By systematically developing the skills that companies need, apprenticeships can also boost productivity, which generate room for improving working conditions.

Apprenticeships are known to increase job satisfaction and lower employee turnover. There is a preliminary study reporting that apprenticeships, or a culture of building skills within the company, positively impact on work environment and motivation.

As vocational educational is still caught a stigma in Indonesia, is it possible to diminished it?

The Indonesian economy will increasingly need skilled workers such as skilled construction workers, electricians, technicians and plumbers. If everyone pursues academic education, the economy will face serious labour shortages in many sectors.

We need to address these negative perceptions over vocational occupations through awareness raising and social media campaigns.

More practical solutions, which have been tested in many countries, are to make academic and vocational education pathways interchangeable so that vocational education is no longer a dead-end or perceived as education reserved for those who fail to follow academic instructions. For instance, graduates of polytechnics and academies should be able to continue to the third year of university education and vice-versa.

Universities in Europe, for instance, now offer vocational subjects. Universities of applied science are good example. Raising the status of polytechnics and academies is another idea.

Another solution is emphasizing life-long learning. If vocational education and training institutions offer training courses to adults who wish to re-skill or up-skill, which is helpful for the society and the economy, then peoples’ perception towards these vocational institutions might improve.

When it comes to people with disabilities, the stigma is even double. What is the main challenge to overcome it?

Indeed, people with disabilities face challenges in their access to employment. One such challenges is negative perception or prejudice of employers over productivity of people with disabilities and perceived cost of necessary adaptations.

Apprenticeships and other types of trial employment programmes offer people with disability to demonstrate their work potential and contributions they can make to the company. At the same time, employers can observe and discover the professional potential and work performance of disabled apprentices.

In addition, it is important that workstation, tools and equipment are adapted to special needs of persons with disabilities. It is desirable that advice on necessary accommodation and financial incentives be provided.

How the apprentice system could be a promising program for producing inclusive and equal job employment for people with disabilities?

We need to take a systemic approach to enhance the inclusiveness of apprenticeship system. Each person with disability has unique accommodation needs. This is why matching and placement of people with disabilities in a training institutions and companies require special attention.

Practices we see in other countries (Ethiopia, Brazil and South Africa) include focal point system. Appointing designated staff as focal points on disability inclusion in education and training institutions and employment service centers and train them is a key to enhance the inclusiveness of skills development. (*)