Thailand urgently needs to develop language and IT skills as well as establish a career standard to ensure the competitiveness of professional workers ahead of the free flow of labour under the Asean Economic Community, a seminar heard yesterday.
At the "7+1professional careers heading Thailand into the AEC" event, organised by the International Institute of Trade and Development (ITD), panellists said Thai workers were quite weak in English language skills and information technology when compared with their counterparts in other Asean countries.
Agencies therefore need to rapidly prepare professionals to develop their English and IT skills so that their careers are as secure as possible in light of liberalisation of the movement of workers under the AEC, they said.
In 2015, Asean member states are committed under a Mutual Recognition Arrangement to allowing the free flow of workers in a number of key professions. The professions covered by the pact are doctors, dentists, nurses, engineers, architects, accountants, surveyors and workers in the hospitality sector.
Asean professionals in these areas will be able to work in another Asean country providing they meet career certification and work permit requirements in each target country.
ITD executive director Watcharas Leelawath said the development of language skills, and communication in English in particular, was essential for Thai workers in preparation for Asean liberalisation.
"Only two years remain before market integration and the free flow of workers throughout Asean," he said.
The government, in cooperation with private enterprises and agencies, should accelerate human-resources development plans to ensure that Thai workers can survive when the free regional movement of labour is permitted," he added.
Wacharas said Thailand had no need to worry about the free flow of professional workers as long as there was a clear plan to develop their language skills and encourage them to enhance their ability in the IT area, as Thai professionals already possessed the required skills directly relevant to their own fields of expertise.
In fact, he said, Thailand generally should benefit from the free flow of labour as the country has a shortage of workers in a number of areas, besides which it will be able to "export" workers in some fields to work elsewhere in Asean.
Banjongjitt Angsusingh, director of the Trade Negotiation Department's Bureau of Trade Services and Investment, said the professions should have a clear career standard to ensure the competitiveness of Thai workers ahead of the AEC's implementation, as this would minimise the risk of local workers losing their jobs to those from other countries.
Also, the development of language skills, not only in English but also in other Asean languages, is important for Thai workers so that they can operate successfully at home and have a wider opportunity to do so in other regional countries.
Bangjongjitt said the Kingdom should also set itself up as a centre for career development in Asean by promoting the development of careers entailing a high level of skill, such as in the hospitality and tourism industry, logistics and electrical services.
Nakorn Silpa-Archa, director-general of the Skill Development Department, acknowledged that Thai workers were weak in English skills, while the country was also facing a skilled-labour shortage.
The department will forge closer cooperation with government agencies such as the Education Ministry and private organisations such as the Federation of Thai Industries to increase the number of workers with English and other Asean language skills, he said.
Supreeya Lumjiak, director of the Dual Vocational Education Centre, said more vocational schools were now developing courses for English language communication skills for their students.
So far, 130 vocational schools have an English programme, while another 291 will introduce one by year-end to meet the demands of Asean labour liberalisation.
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