Eight to 10 million workers — 40% of the workforce — need skill-upgrading to keep pace with the “4.0 era”, a joint study by Dhurakij Pundit University (DPU) and the Quality Learning Foundation (QLF) has found.
Based on findings from a large-scale survey of 40,000 enterprises in 18 provinces, DPU assistant vice-president Kiat-anan Luankaew said Thailand needs to rely less on immigrant labour and equip the bottom 40% of its local workforce for the new technology-driven era or it will be unable to compete against other nations.
QLF assistant manager Kraiyos Patrawart said Thailand needs to prepare itself if it wants to get out of the middle-income trap in the next 20 years.
Mr Kiat-anan said Thai employers, especially those in small and medium-size businesses, have relied on cheap migrant workers from neighbouring countries instead of investing in new technologies.
Millions of workers, he said, have also been ignored by their employers as they have never been reskilled for the changing world.
“Thai labourers are getting richer because they are working harder, not smarter, and their employers also do not really care as they are not interested in investing in skills development,” he said.
The manufacturing sector will be digitised in the coming years. Mr Kiat-anan urged businesses to overhaul their manufacturing structure to rely less on cheap labour. At the same time, they need to invest more in skills development.
“Short course training should be provided to employees. As for older workers who have been working in a traditional bureaucratic style for years and who cannot adapt easily, they should be moved from working in the industrial sector to the service sector,” he said.
The education sector should also provide adequate teachers and a learning environment suitable for the new era, he said.
“Training with equipment at schools should not be different from what is installed at real workplaces,” he said.
Mr Kiat-anan also recommended greater promotion of vocational education, which he said should be considered career advancement.
“When compared with university graduates, vocational graduates feel they have less career advancement opportunities because the country has not yet built career ladders as high,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Kraiyos urged the government to encourage students to seek vocational education, instead of leaving school after completing just Prathom 6 or Mathayom 3. The QLF said Thais complete just 7.9 years of schooling on average, while the target is 13.6 years.