One of the major challenges of technical and vocational education (TVE) at present is to shape their students to function effectively for the demands of the global industry market (Aktas, Pitts, Richards, & Silova, 2017; Søgaard & Wollschläger, 2000). Students who have completed a TVE program are expected to adequately prepare with a strong foundation of employability skills (ILO, 2010). However, the job market in several countries has shown that they have been facing difficulty finding qualified TVE graduates to join the industry (SHRM, 2016).
Employability skills have been used to be an important strategy in developing employment and increasing competitiveness in the labor market (McQuaid & Lindsay, 2005; Jagannathan & Geronimo, 2013; OECD, 2016). OECD (2016) indicated that employees who possess employability can help promote innovation and adopt of new technologies, boost productivity, and improve their own life quality. However, in many developing countries, there are challenges on the skills development for employability of the technical and vocational education (TVE) students (Idris & Mbudai, 2017). As with other developing countries, Thailand has been trying to develop a TVE system since 1898 (OVEC, 2018), but TVE institutions in Thailand are unable to prepare their students to match the demands of the labor market. There is still a critical issue on the lack of quality of TVE education and having insufficient knowledge and skill essential to meet the requirements of the workplace (Cleesuntorn, 2013).
Nowadays, Thailand is moving forward with the country’s 20-Year National Strategy and Thailand 4.0 Policy that requires manpower at the technologist level. The TVE is basic requirement. In this case, Thailand needs to develop TVE students to possess a high level of employability skills, which have to focus on collaborating with the private sector through work-integrated education (WIL).
Western Digital Corporation (Thailand) (WD), which is fully in the hard disk drive manufacturing industry, aware the importance of WIL program in employability skill development to promote the quality of TVE students through a real-world project and real international teamwork environment in an industry, the international WD-WIL program was, therefore, began in 2008. The international WD-WIL program process consists of three phases: before attending program, during the program, and after program. And later in 2015, WD started the Thai-Malaysia International Vocational Exposure program (Thai-Malaysia IVEP) as a subprogram in WD-WIL program (WD, 2018). Thai-Malaysia IVEP is working together as a buddy between Thai and Malaysian students with the objective of improving individual learning, soft and hard skills, and build up the relationship between education institutions, students and WD. During the international work experience in this program, students are encouraged to work with people from different cultures effectively in order to support them to have better working skills in the globalization era.
The main purpose of this study was to compare the level of employability skills between Thai and Malaysian TVE students after completion of the Thai-Malaysia International Vocational Exposure program as perceived by the mentors.
Participants: 30 mentors at WD were asked to assess 80 TVE students in their responsibility. The majority of the mentors (43.33%) were supervisors from development engineering department, 33.33% were from test engineering department, 13.33% were from process engineering department, and 10.00% were from quality engineering department. 80 TVE students in this study were 45-Thai and 35-Malaysian students. 84.44% (n = 38) of Thai students were male and 15.56% (n = 7) were female. Whereas 62.86% (n = 22) of Malaysian students were male and 37.14% (n = 13) were female. Instrument: The instrument was designed and developed to be used for assessing the levels of students’ employability skills after completing Thai-Malaysia IVEP, using a 10-point rating scale ranging from 1 (unsatisfactory very strongly) to 10 (excellent). The employability skills in this study contained sixteen aspects, namely: (1) quantity of work, (2) quality of work, (3) academic ability, (4) ability to learn and apply knowledge, (5) practical ability, (6) judgment and decision making, (7) planning management, (8) communication skills, (9) responsibility and dependability, (10) interest in work, (11) initiative and self-starter, (12) response to supervision, (13) personality, (14) interpersonal skills, (15) discipline and adaptability to a formal organization, and (16) ethics and morality. Procedure: Data collection was one of the international WD-WIL program processes and took place in two periods after students’ completion of the Thai-Malaysia IVEP. Mentors were asked to assess each students’ employability skills and complete an assessment feedback sheet. They completed the questionnaire independently, all of the mentors’ feedback was returned to HR department. Ethical clearance was obtained to protect all participants in the study. Data analysis: The independent t-test was used to determine whether there is a significant difference between the means of two independent groups, Thai and Malaysian TVE students.
According to the mentors’ assessment, the results of independent t-test indicated that Malaysian TVE students had better employability skills than Thai students with statistical significant at 0.001 level (p < 0.001) for all sixteen aspects. The fifth biggest differences in assessment results were in “initiative and self-starter” (t(78) = -11.47, p < .001), followed by “communication skills” (t(78) = -8.90, p < .001), “responsibility and dependability” (t(78) = -8.84, p < .001), “ability to learn and apply knowledge” (t(78) = -7.37, p < .001), “academic ability” (t(78) = -8.50, p < .001), and “practical ability” (t(78) = -7.47, p < .001). The last three different skills that Malaysian students have higher than Thai were “interpersonal skills” (t(78) = -4.05, p < .001), “ethics and morality” (t(73.33) = -5.04, p < .001), and “personality” (t(78) = -3.06, p < .001). This study clearly demonstrates that Malaysian students possess more employability skills than Thai TVE students, this means that Malaysian students have a better blend of hard skills and soft skills in the workplace which are highly valued by the international and domestic high tech industry (Ang, 2015). Since in the era of globalization and the need for a highly skilled workforce to meet the rapid development of technology in the industry, Thai TVE students should to produce and develop skilled and technical human resources to match the international trends, quality and standards of industry in order to be able to compete in the global job market. Since the analyses in the present study were made based on the information obtained directly from the mentors in the company, the author believed that the results could be beneficial in the development of employability skill. Further research one can apply to study and compare with European TVE students who attend WIL in WD as well. Other important findings will be discussed in detail at the conference.
Aktas, F., Pitts, K., Richards, J. C., & Silova, I. (2017). Institutionalizing global citizenship: A critical analysis of higher education programs and curricula. Journal of Studies in International Education, 21(1), 65-80. doi:10.1177/1028315316669815 Ang, M. C. H. (2015). Graduate employability awareness: A gendered perspective. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 211, 192-198 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.11.083 Cleesuntorn, A. (2013). Education in Thailand and the challenging issues. Rajabhat Journal of Sciences, Humanities & Social Sciences, 14(2), 1-12. Idris, A., & Mbudai, Y. (2017). Technical and vocational education: Challenges towards youths empowerment in Kano state-Nigeria. Journal of Technical Education and Training, 9(1), 1-12. ILO. (2010). A skilled workforce for strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Geneva, CH: International Labour Office (ILO). Jagannathan, S., & Geronimo, D. (2013). Skills for competitiveness, jobs, and employability in developing Asia-Pacific. ADB Briefs, 18, 1-8. McQuaid, R. W., & Lindsay, C. (2005). The concept of employability. Urban Studies, 42(2), 197– 219. OECD. (2016). Enhancing employability. Paris, FR: OECD. OVEC. (2018). History of Thai vocational education. Bangkok, TH: Office of the Vocational Education Commission (OVEC), Ministry of Education. SHRM. (2016). The new talent landscape: Recruiting difficulty and skills shortages. Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Søgaard, J., & Wollschläger, N. (2000). Internationalising vocational education and training in Europe: Prelude to an overdue debate. Luxembourg, LU: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP). WD. (2018). WDC Investor Relations. Retrieved from http://investor.wdc.com/investor-relations
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