At the Asia-Pacific Innovation Day — Digital Talent Summit, Professor Dr. Sirirurg Songsivilai delivered a keynote speech to address the cultivation of digital talent and advancing ongoing collaborations in the region. This is an edited version of his speech.
Even though we find ourselves still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel. So we have to chart a path for ourselves for the next phase of recovery, as well as build resilience for future pandemics, which will unfortunately inevitably happen.
COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a major threat, but it has also provided major opportunities — to learn and do things differently. For example, COVID-19 has given us full online education. It has also given us rapid expansion of e-commerce and virtual meetings, among many others. All of these were things that we could not have imagined before the pandemic hit.
In the post-COVID world, Thailand is preparing for full recovery and resilience, which will hopefully be even better than pre-COVID plans.
First, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation is encouraging the development of a specialized, high-performance workforce that meets the needs of Thailand’s target industries, in accordance with the government’s policy framework and future development.
We are cooperating with industries and national and international businesses through the co-utilization of researchers in important fields to provide a desirable quality and quantity of this workforce.
Second, we are also supporting more scholarships in higher education for students who have talent in science and technology through the Science Classroom in the University-Affiliated School Program initiative. Students in this program will practice their digital skills through university study in computer science courses. The ministry also offers government scholarships to students pursuing a degree in electronics and computer technology, both domestically and internationally.
Third, we’re expanding the Thailand Massive Open Online Course (Thai — MOOC) platform, which enables everyone to have access to knowledge, promoting lifelong learning to all citizens.
Fourth, the Reinventing University policy is the key to reform the university system, support the effort to provide education and research, and produce graduates according to the strength and focus of each individual university. There is an increasing focus on reskilling and upskilling, either with degree or non-degree programs. In this respect, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is both the tool and the target for workforce development, without necessarily having to go through the whole process of getting a degree.
Fifth is a program called Cooperative and Work Integrated Education (CWIE). This involves cooperation between higher education institutes and enterprises with the aim of producing graduates with competencies that match the precise needs of the market, allowing individuals to develop relevant skills and better prepare for their future. The curriculum’s focus is on the development of students through learning while engaging in practical work — in private enterprises themselves — meaning that students are ready to work immediately after graduating.
Sixth, the ministry also supports the mobilization of personnel in higher education institutes or government agencies to work in the manufacturing and service sectors through the so-called “Talent Mobility Program.” This program supports the sharing of personnel between the two segments to solve problems and develop competitiveness. It also encourages the industrial sector to invest more in Research and Development (R&D). This supports cooperation between the different sectors in R&D as well as curriculum development and management mechanisms, with the aim of producing a better-skilled workforce by encouraging students to learn from actual practice.
Lastly, I would like to mention that Thailand also has an eye on certain fields of rapid growth, and future direction including Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, and other fields.
Recently, the ministry entered into an agreement with Huawei to build up knowledge of digital technologies through the establishment of the Huawei Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Academy. This will help unleash the potential of Thailand’s digital workforce — to build an innovation-led society — developing an innovation ecosystem and digital technologies that create a platform for collaboration between government agencies, universities, research institutes, and the private sector. Together, these organizations will jointly develop much needed talents and enhance capabilities, digital skills, and innovation, while building technological knowledge through world-class experts and scientists.
But these endeavors cannot be successful without strong cooperation and strong commitment from all sectors. As digital becomes a part of all our lives, the ministry is both prepared and willing to play an important role in cultivating digital talents. We will expand human resource development cooperation to the whole Asia Pacific (APAC) region, to jointly enhance capabilities of the digital workforce and create the technological knowledge necessary to achieve a leap forward. This will be an important mechanism for the economic and social development of the region, looking ahead.
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