Thai universities urged to partner globally to prepare EEC workers

Thailand’s universities are encouraged to forge more partnerships with universities and firms overseas to help educate and develop a new generation of workers with the skills needed in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the showcase zone for the Kingdom’s new more advanced economy, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said last week.

Partnerships with leading world counterparts are intended to help upgrade Thai universities and plug gaps in industrial fields where Thai education still lacks resources and personnel. More skilled labor will increase foreign investors’ confidence to substantiate their investment in the EEC.

“Universities actively responding to the national strategy will be provided help and budget funds, while private companies working with the higher education sector will receive tax incentives,” Somkid emphasized in a meeting with higher-education representatives at the recently restructured Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.

In contrast, universities that fail to respond to the labor market’s needs and produce unemployed graduates will face funding cuts.

According to a recent EEC Office survey, demand for workers in the 10 targeted “S-Curve” industries in the EEC will reach 475,000 positions in the next five years. Of those positions, 60 percent are qualified technical and vocational workers, while 40 percent are high-skilled laborers with bachelor and post-graduate degrees. Next-generation automotive and intelligent electronics are among the sectors in urgent need of skilled workers.

10 identified S-curve industries are divided into two categories – S-curve and New S-curve. S-curve refers to existing industries such as smart electronics, food technology, agriculture, automotive, and medical tourism; while the New S-curve industries are robotics, aviation, biofuels, medical hubs and the digital sector.

Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation was created in May this year by merging Ministry of Science and Technology, Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC), National Research Council of Thailand, and Thailand Research Fund, with an aim to develop high technology, enhancing the efficiency of the R&D and support Thailand 4.0 policy, as well as human resource development.

In FY2019, the government has allotted a 97-billion-baht budget to the new ministry in its first year.

To catalyze long-term economic development, Suvit Maesincee, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation stated the government’s goal in lifting R&D spending to 1.5 percent of GDP over the next 5 years from about 1.1 percent at present.
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