ICT Workforce Development and Thailand 4.0: Shifting from Quantity to Quality

Tuesday, 12/4   |   1:30 pm – 2:30 pm   |   Room 201

Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu​

Senior Research Fellow, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI)

Thailand

Under Thailand 4.0 vision, one of the most important mechanisms to propel the country into a high-income country is the development of 10 existing and new “S-Curve” industries as the new engine of growth. To promote the development of 10 “S-Curve” industries, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is designed to attract foreign and domestic investment in these industries to the three eastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao.

Although the EEC is a major progress in transforming Thailand into Thailand 4.0, there are still impediments to drive this strategy. Thailand still lacks a large number of highly-skilled professionals, which prevents the country from engaging in high value-added activities. In particular, the structure of workforce in the EEC shows that half of the workforce only possess high school education. The remaining 2/3 of the workforce has vocational education level and the remaining holds undergraduate or higher education level. It reflects that the majority of the workforce in the EEC is not engaged in high value-added activities.

For Thai IT workforce, the big challenge is that there is a large amount of IT workers but a small number of high-quality IT workers. Last year, Thailand produced 20,000 new graduates in computer-related subjects. At the same time, there were 7,000 computer-related graduates, including those who graduated in previous years, who were unemployed. Meanwhile, the business sector complained about the lack of workforce. It reflects the problems of skill mismatch and low-quality of graduates.

One cause for the skill mismatch and low-quality of graduates is the out-of-date curricula, unable to catch up with the rapid technological changes, such as cloud computing and internet of things (IoT). Many do not even contain enough essential IT contents, such as information management, system paradigms, integrated systems technology and user experience design, for IT professionals. Consequently, many graduates have skills that do not meet the industry demand.

The lack of highly-skilled IT manpower is major barrier towards the development of targeted industries in the EEC. If Thailand is to acquire more highly-skilled IT manpower to meet the demand of the targeted industries in the EEC, then the problem must be solved urgently. In order to meet the demand for high-quality IT manpower in the EEC, the Thai government should initiate a pilot project for targeted industries in EEC. The Thai government should also implement short, medium, and long-term improvements simultaneously as well as draw lessons learned from the pilot project to implement the successful implementations nationwide.

Ms. Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu has been in TDRI since 2002 and is familiar with latest trend and development in Thailand.  She has participated in various research projects in Thailand and ASEAN. Also, TDRI plays an important role to provide professional suggestion to the nation and important inputs to Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), one of the largest project in Thailand in these years.