How Thailand is addressing its digital skills gap – Mercer

With a shortage of skilled talent impacting Thailand’s transition to digital, Mercer is helping to identify skills needs and build a future talent pipeline

While Thailand has made good progress in the push for a digital future, led by its 20-year National Master Plan for Digital Development, the country’s 4.0 ambition rests heavily on the country’s ability to address its digital skills gap.

According to a recent report by the World Bank, the shortage of skilled talent due to a combination of mismatched skills and an inefficient technical and vocational education and training system, is a big challenge affecting Thailand’s future growth prospects and economic competitiveness.

"The Thai education system must adapt to digitalisation because our higher education courses do not meet the industry or the country’s needs,” explains Professor Supachai Patumnakul, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) in Thailand.

In light of the new labour market demands to drive Thailand’s digital transformation, Mercer has partnered with the MHESI) to help the Thai government identify emerging skills needs and build a future talent pipeline for the country.

Set to roll out in three distinct phases over the next two years, the initiative, known as the ‘Lift Skill Thai Labour Force Project’, aims to “create new or adjust existing curricula to help with upskilling the Thai labour force”, says Professor Patumnakul.

Educational program will offer learning that matches future skills’ demand

The first phase of the project was completed in May 2022, where Mercer analysed the workforce capability demand in Thailand’s S-curve industries – high potential industries such as Digital, Bioenergy & Biochemicals and Future Mobility, expected to grow rapidly in the next 10 years.

Through dedicated focus group discussions, Mercer found that besides emerging tech skills such as robotics and automation, cybersecurity and data science, the current workforce in Thailand also lacks soft skills such as having a growth mindset and the ability to adapt to change. This made it challenging for businesses to seize new opportunities in the transition to a digital-first world and grow sustainably.

For the second phase of the project, Mercer and MHESI is now leveraging these insights to engage universities and institutes of higher learning to start a pilot capability development program, with specific learning solutions and course curricula for students matching the demand for future skills that the private sector needs.

In the third and final phase of the project, Mercer will then monitor the program’s implementation, to ensure meaningful impact for MHESI by building a solid career path for new undergraduates entering the workforce.

“Bringing the public and private sectors together in this upskilling journey, helping them to pick out where the skill gaps are, and putting programs in place to build a future talent pipeline, is an important first step for Thailand and a significant achievement for Mercer,” says Juckchai Boonyawat, Mercer’s CEO in Thailand.

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