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Not enough scientists and technicians for Thai industry

04 Jun 2014

In Thailand both industry and the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office (STI) have expressed continued concerns over the supply of science graduates to take up technical positions in the private sector. A recent survey has shown that only 39% of high school leavers choose further studies in science & technology related areas. Additional surveys have also indicated that some 35-40% of science graduates take up careers outside science & technology when they graduate from university. Furthermore only about 30% of the estimated 80,000 science research workers in Thailand work in the private sector; most are in universities and government organizations. At present students who have received scholarship support for their studies from the Ministry of Science & Technology cannot enter directly into the private sector since they have to work for periods as long as 10-12 years for government organizations on graduating. The STI Office is supporting a change to this policy so that newly qualified scientists and technologists can enter the private sector much sooner and is also encouraging internship schemes in industry for science students.

For some time, organizations such as the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Chamber of Commerce have highlighted the problem of lack of skilled technicians for Thai industry. At present around 40,000 technicians per year complete vocational education courses but this is said to be insufficient for present and future needs. The German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) recently reported increasing investment projects from Germany in Thailand, for example Volkswagen intends to establish car production, but warned that more technicians must be trained. Germany is currently the top trading partner from Europe with Thailand. Together with the Thailand Ministry of Education the GTCC has set up a German Dual Excellence Education project to improve standards in technician training and to set up mentoring systems for students working in companies.

The supply of science & technology technicians and graduates, and also not forgetting skilled craftsmen, is not only a problem in Thailand. It has been and remains a problem in many countries. Are science subjects and/or the teaching methods boring? Do the arts offer easier or more attractive options? Does a career in science offer inadequate reward in terms of salary, promotion opportunities, status, image, and individual satisfaction, whatever? The debate goes on and on.

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