COVID-19: Promoting skills development

Skills development during and after the pandemic: Challenges and opportunities

Skills development can improve productivity and help workers, including youth, diversify their employment opportunities. Yet, skills development programmes have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. Tauvik Muhamad, ILO’s Japan Skills Project Manager, provided insights on how to continue improving skills development during and after the pandemic as part of the effort to build ready-to-work, skillful generation of Indonesia.

Analysis | Jakarta, Indonesia | 09 July 2020
Tauvik Muhamad

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the skills development programme in the country. How can we take the pandemic situation as an opportunity to accelerate digital learning for Indonesia?

Even before the pandemic, Indonesia is already in the process of applying the e-learning mechanism, taking into account its vast geographical condition. Digital learning would provide better access for people of Indonesia from Sabang to Merauke to vocational trainings. The digital learning programme could be developed in the forms of online and offline learning programmes and into a blended learning programme, combining both online or offline distance learning and face-to-face/practical learning mechanisms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to accelerate this digital learning programme. Lockdowns, physical distancing and travel restrictions have made distance learning a necessity.

The advantage of distance learning is that we could provide a better access to skills development for wider populations, particularly those who live in rural areas who may have previously struggled to get access to vocational skills demanded by the industry. This, in turn, allows them to be skilled and to have a better access for decent job.

What should be taken into account to ensure smooth digital learning for better skills?

The application of solutions such as learning from home differs substantially across countries and population groups, depending on access to electricity, internet connectivity, devices or media, learning platforms and the preparedness of instructors and learners for remote education.

Some areas in Indonesia still face lack of access to the infrastructure mentioned above. However, we can combine both online or offline distance learning and classroom trainings by building a blended learning mechanism involving existing community learning programmes such as society learning centres or community vocational centres. In addition, plenty of opportunities exist especially for programmes with a strong emphasis on academic subjects and which have practical activities that are already computer-based.

Skills development programmes can help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, in either the immediate coping phase or when economies start to recover.

In your view, what challenges faced by Indonesia in developing quality vocational training and education?

The main challenge faced by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Indonesia is skills mismatch. Skills provided by TVET does not match skills demanded by the industry. To address this issue, a strategic partnership between TVET and industry is a key.

The solid partnership could be developed through the development of sector skills council/ forum that, in turn, would be able to contribute to improving capacity of TVET instructors and implementing quality apprenticeship. Moreover, important to mention is the need to establish a career development scheme for instructors so that they could also be adaptive to the fast changing world of work.

Recently, the government has released a new regulation on “super tax deduction” up to 200 percent for companies involved in vocational training (Finance Ministry Decree No. 128/PMK/010/2019). This information needs to be widely circulated to increase number of companies involved and engaged in vocational training development.

The Decree will also encourage companies to involve in sector skills council/ forum for developing competency standards, vocational training curriculums and quality apprenticeship. In addition, if it is required, skills development fund can be developed to ensure programme continuity.

These partnership and intervention would contribute to reducing skills mismatch in labour market that would eventually increase the absorption rate of TVET graduates in the industry.

What can government do to ensure that the development of vocational training fits with the industrial demand?

The key word is a strategic partnership between TVET and industries. Thus, industrial sector needs to consolidate themselves in a forum/council to discuss and engage in skills development policies and systems. This is also known as Sector Skills Council led by the industrial sector who works hand-in-hand with relevant stakeholders of government, TVET representative, trade unions, professional associations and so forth. This is to ensure that skills development and training plans match with the industrial demands.

The partnership should involve the Public Employment Service whose roles and tasks are to collect information related to skills supply and demand in the labour market. The service would not only match job seekers and job providers, but also identify skills gap and skills needs in the labour market so that these can be reflected in their training programme.

For example, according to CBS-Central Bureau Statistics, industrial sector that absorbed labour forces are still dominated by manufacturing (this includes automotive, electronics and maritime), construction, accommodation, tourism and retails. While future skills demanded linked to digital economy such as ICT and digital related skills, including e-commerce. Therefore, through a synergic partnership, we know that we need to focus on preparing those skills for industrial sectors.

What kinds of supports given by the ILO to assist in improving quality of vocational education and training in Indonesia?

The mandate of ILO is to help member States, including Indonesia, to improve their country policies and strategies, build the capacity and provide technical assistance on issues related to labour and employment through its development cooperation projects. We support the Indonesia government, employers’ and workers’ organizations in number area of works, covering three main priorities.

The first priority focuses on improving skills development policy and system to be more responsive to the industry demand. While the second priority focuses on promoting digital skills and distance learning and third on linking TVET to the labour market information

Under the first priority, the ILO assists to develop a guide for competency standard development. This will help to develop a number of standard competencies that fit with industrial demand. The ILO also assists the development of assessment tools for TVET, addressing their capacity gaps and ensure the quality of TVET managers and instructors.

In addition, to build strong partnership between TVET and industry by strengthening sector skills council as means to encourage the involvement of sectoral industry in promoting and implementing quality apprenticeship. This, in turn, would smoothen the transition from school/ vocational training centre to work.

Under the second priority, as previously explained, the implementation of digital distance learning for TVET would allow equal and better access for young female and male job seekers in rural area to the labour market. While on the third priority, the ILO aims at improving effectiveness and capacity of public employment services to match skills supply and demand. In addition, the programme also promotes unemployment social insurance in line with the promotion of active labour market policy focusing on three sectors: ICT, tourism and maritime sectors.

The ILO works closely with government of Indonesia through the Ministry of Manpower, the Coordinating Ministry for Economy Affairs and the Ministry for National Planning Development (Bappenas) and social partners of employers’ organizations (the Indonesian Employers’ Association/Apindo) and the National Chamber of Industry and Commerce/Kadin) as well as trade union confederations.