Vocational school students seek action more than words

The Jakarta Post, page 14

Vocational schools (SMKs) long for action more than words as they face difficulties matching graduates with prevailing labor markets due to the limited skills of graduates.

IT network student Sri Sulasih said she still received more theory than practice at SMK Tunas Teknologi in Bekasi, West Java. The 18-year-old said she spent more time in the classroom, learning theory for 17 hours per week, than practicing her skills at workshops. Practice time is only eight hours per week.

Students at SMK Teknik 10 Nopember in East Jakarta share similar challenges. They are also challenged by the reality of outdated practice equipment. Taryoto, the school’s curriculum head, said the school sometimes obtained funds from the state, but it had never used the funds to buy new equipment since the school’s establishment in 2007. He claimed that something of higher importance always came up that required funding.

Local and foreign investors often lament the difficulty of finding skilled Indonesians with good enough qualifications for the manufacturing industry, even though supply is already sufficient to meet demand.

Data from the Industry Ministry shows that the manufacturing sector needs a new workforce of 600,000 people ever year, a figure matched by 600,000 graduates per year.

To solve the skills-gap issue, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has called for an overhaul of the vocational education system, especially in manufacturing industry skills.

Garments, animation, food and beverage processing, automotives and chemical processing are among the sectors that the government is presently focusing on.

The goals set out include training as many as 1 million workers with manufacturing skills from 2017 to 2019, linking graduates from SMKs with industry and providing more time for practice workshops.

The government also launched the National Internship Program in December. The program will help industry absorb and train vocational school students.

Improving the system, however, is difficult due to a limited state budget. According to the Culture and Education Ministry, there are 6,000 SMKs that focus on manufacturing skills. These SMKs have 1.8 million students at present.

The Culture and Education Ministry’s SMK development director, Mustaghfirin Amin, said each of these schools needed up to Rp 40 billion (US$3 million) every six years to renew their equipment, meaning that Rp 40 trillion in spending is needed for the SMKs combined.

However, Mustaghfirin said the government had only allocated Rp 1 trillion in the ministry’s budget and an additional Rp 1.9 trillion in a special fund allocation (DAK) for all 13,600 SMKs nationwide.


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