South Sulawesi webinar highlights short courses and education flexibility
Education providers need to adopt a flexible approach and consider offering more short courses to capture an Indonesian market hungry for skills, a webinar has heard. The Australia-Indonesia Centre partnered with the government of South Sulawesi to open up a discussion on how to progress human capital development.
The province has 2.25 million young people, a quarter of the population, who need training to be able to capture the opportunities of a growing economy.
The AIC’s Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) is working in the province to learn more about the youth demographic and its needs.
The online webinar included speakers from agencies from the governments of South Sulawesi, Australia, Victoria and Queensland, with a keynote speech delivered by Andi Sudirman Sulaiman, Acting Governor of South Sulawesi.
Addressing the gathering, Acting Governor Sulaiman said two years of COVID-19 was slowly being overcome through the vaccination program with many restrictions now being eased.
“With regards to vocational education, we are ready to collaborate in such areas as tourism, agriculture, livestock and others,” Acting Governor Sulaiman said.
He noted the provincial government and Indonesian Ministry of Manpower had conducted various vocational training programs and was working to improve the existing South Sulawesi education system.
Australian Consul-General Bronwyn in Makassar, Bronwyn Robbins, also delivered a keynote speech and said that Australia was well-placed to help South Sulawesi achieve its human potential.
“Sulawesi’s human development potential will require new, creative, and comprehensive forms of international education partnerships,” Ms Robbins said.
“Partnerships that can help deliver high quality skills, education, and training, but also to collaborate with the provincial government in a coordinated way.”
Ms Robbins noted the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, IA-CEPA made vocational education and training a priority and DFAT’s Blueprint for Trade and Investment with Indonesia had highlighted options for providers, such as strategic partnerships, joint ventures, or consortia.
These were themes explored in a panel discussion, moderated by Australia-Indonesia Centre communications and outreach lead Helen Brown.
Addressing the panel, Andi Darmawan Bintang from the regional development research agency Bappelitbangda said the pandemic had increased the need for skills training, particularly in information technology.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on employment opportunities [for those] around 18 to 20 years old,” Pak Andi said.
“They have been impacted by COVID-19 with regards to their employment opportunity.
“So it is our duty to provide, or endeavour to provide, the targets for the future.
Pak Andi said technology was crucial in allowing young people to be self-sufficient and achieving their desire to “stand on their own two feet”.
“[Young people] are developing businesses and most of them want training related to how to take advantage of technology because, during COVID, technology has played a key role,” he said.
“Secondly, accessibility to information through information technology is quite easily obtained. “Thirdly, the reach of technology… is quite a feasible option and allows market access.”
Belinda Rimbo from the Victorian government said “shorter, bite-sized, micro-credentialled courses” were a great option.
“I think young people in Indonesia are resourceful and creative,” Ms Rimbo said.
“In fact, they are savvy users of new technologies so learning apps is a good idea, allowing for learning anywhere and at any time.
“I think the key now will be to train the teachers and the trainers how to use IT and enhanced learning.”
Queensland Trade and Investment Commissioner for Indonesia, Ben Giles, flagged the idea of flexibility and for physical learning to occur in Indonesia, rather than sending students to Australia for a few weeks at a time.
“I think from the Australian side there needs to be flexibility,” Mr Giles said.
Private sector training investment
Mr Giles said the private sector had an important role to play, providing the example from the city of Balikpapan where the Queensland mining construction company Thiess had a training centre.
“This is for four-year apprenticeships so it is longer-term and it is backed by Central Queensland University, but what I’m getting at is the important role of the private sector,” he said.
“There needs to be a win-win for all levels.
“In the case of Thiess, they have trained over a thousand young apprentices over a twenty-year period.”
Mr Giles said the Thiess project was “significant and life-changing” and many of those trained were now business executives.
“What it does for a company like Thiess is that it brings people in and trains them in their skills as well,” he said.
“So I think that is a great example of training and marketing.”
The theme of private sector opportunities was taken up by Clarice Campbell from Katalis (the government-backed business development program aimed at unlocking the potential of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement).
Ms Campbell said training and upskilling through the private sector was “a huge opportunity”.
She said education courses could be targeted towards those 60 percent of Indonesians who didn’t complete high school.
“These are largely underskilled or low-skilled workers. If they don’t have the opportunity for professional development, they are going to continue to be low-skilled and delivering services that are failing to meet standards and customer expectations,” she said.
Ms Campbell said industry could play a key part in this is a huge question for Indonesia.
“There are certain companies that have training centres and already collaborate with international providers and that is really great, but how do we grow that to a larger scale?” she said.
“I think that should be a consideration going forward.”
Why do we educate?
Education and science counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Elizabeth Campbell-Dorning, told the gathering there was a need for clarity of purpose.
“I think there is an assumption that vocational education means the same thing in every country.
“But between Australia’s and Indonesia’s educational systems, there are a lot of differences,” Ms Campbell-Dorning said.
“What an Australian educational provider to Indonesia – whether that is young entrepreneurs or Indonesian businesses or Indonesian governments – can provide might be quite different to what an Indonesian vocational provider can offer.
Ms Campbell-Dorning said cost was also a factor for Indonesian young people considering enrolling in an Australian course.
“The unspoken thing is about the cost of Australian skills and training. It is not an insignificant amount,” she said.
“I think that is always going to be a fundamental factor in defining cooperation and facilitating partnerships that will train Indonesians; what is the goal in those partnerships and it will be different with different partners.”
Ms Campbell-Dorning said it was important to be clear whether the objective of more education investment was economic growth, supporting businesses or fostering employment among young Indonesians.
“Those are really critical factors to bed down before there are conversations around individual partnerships,” she said.
Pak Andi Darmawan Bintang concluded the session with the comment that the development of human capital is a government priority.
“We need to prepare because Indonesia has a demographic dividend or demographic bonus, and the peak will be in 2025 to 2045. This bonus is for those in productive age, 15 to 64 years old,” he said.
“This is a window of opportunity for the advancement of Indonesia, and therefore, in order to optimise this abundance of human resources, they must be competitive and skilled.”
The webinar took place in the context of the Australia-Indonesia Centre and South Sulawesi Provincial Government having signed a Memorandum of Understanding to advance their relationship across science, technology, education and training.
Two of the PAIR research areas look at young people – health and wellbeing, and aspirations, skills and education opportunities. The other two projects focus on the seaweed industry and a new railway line which could bring new job opportunities.