Employers find Indonesian vocational school graduates unhelpful


SOUTH TANGERANG, Indonesia – “It’s disheartening,” said Ratih Mawarti, a teacher at a vocational school in southern Tangerang, Greater Jakarta, where nearly half of the students couldn’t find a job afterwards. have graduated. “As teachers, we try to keep morale up and encourage them to increase their skills and competences while waiting for a job,” she added.

Unemployment among vocational school graduates is a national concern. The sector is aimed at students who do not plan to graduate and who wish to enter the labor market after graduation. These students can choose to attend Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan Vocational High Schools instead of regular high schools, which prepare them for further education.

SMK students tend to come from poorer families with a lower level of education. In August, data from the Central Statistics Agency, known by its Indonesian initials BPS, revealed that vocational schools are the largest contributors to the country’s “open unemployment” category among educational institutions.

This is a worrying problem for Indonesia, but not new. In August 2012, BPS data showed that SMK graduates accounted for 9.97% of total unemployment, slightly higher than the 9.69% share of regular high school graduates. The numbers worsened for SMK graduates over the next three years, reaching 12.65% in 2015. By comparison, the 2015 figure for high school graduates was 10.32%.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office in October 2014, presided over a drop in the overall unemployment rate to 5.61% of the labor force in 2016, from 6.18% the previous year. However, the government has not been able to shut down SMK schools at the top of the list of unemployed graduates.

Anhar Firdaus, an unemployed SMK graduate in Bogor, West Java, said he believed employers discriminated against SMK graduates. However, Ratih said the main problem is a mismatch between the needs of industry and the subjects offered by vocational schools. Ratih’s school offers five areas of specialization: accounting, baking, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and electronic engineering. Only the accounting course was deemed adequate by the industry, Ratih said.

Sumhartono, human resources manager at Jembo Cable, a manufacturer of cable products, agreed. He said that no vocational school in Indonesia specializes in the cable manufacturing industry. Despite this, his company has a policy of hiring SMK graduates for 90% of its labor-intensive positions.

“We invite those who have potential in automotive and electrical (engineering) SMK, and then we train them for a year or two so that they are a little more qualified,” he said. But he added that few companies adopt such policies.

“SMK graduates usually don’t even have 10% or 20% of the skills required by the industry. We give them a chance, but others wouldn’t care. They would instead get trained BLK workers ( Balai Latihan Kerja), ”he said. said, referring to the government-owned training centers established to help high school graduates develop specialized skills. BLK centers offer short courses, while SMKs provide full-time education over three years, following the national curriculum.

Minimum requirements

Krama Yudha Tiga Berlian Motors, the official distributor of Mitsubishi Motors, said that although it accepts SMK interns, it no longer employs SMK graduates as it requires recruits to hold university degrees. “We observe that SMK students on their work experience are not ready in terms of the skills needed to work. We also find that their attitude needs to be improved in order to interact with people in the workplace,” Intan said. Vidiasari, a manager of the company. .

The director of vocational schools in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Mustaghfirin Amin, said the government was working to improve vocational schools to meet the needs of the industry. One measure will add a year to the typical three-year program to allow more skills to be taught to students prepared for jobs that require multiple skills, such as maritime tourism and fashion design, Mustaghfirin said.

He added that vocational schools now also have a retooling program, in which unemployed graduates can be invited to undergo training for a week or two to improve their skills and help them find employment.

Mustaghfirin said industry and schools, rather than government, should take the lead in improving linkages to address the demand-supply mismatch problem. “The government’s job is just to connect the two. Schools can also take the initiative. Today every SMK is in contact with a company,” he said.

Widodo is optimistic that vocational schools will capitalize on the potential of Indonesian youth, who represent 60% of the population. Since the start of his presidency, Widodo has committed to increasing the number of SMK schools, targeting a ratio of 60 SMK schools to 40 high schools by 2020.

The ratio is currently slightly below 50:50, following the creation of 238 new vocational schools, bringing the total to 12,659, against 12,689 high schools. The government says it is determined to achieve the target ratio.

Many SMK schools argue that the government should focus on improving existing schools. Firdaus, deputy headmaster of another vocational school in southern Tangerang called SMKN 4, said the main problem that needs government help is to address the shortage of teachers. Schools are struggling to attract professionals to teach in vocational schools due to financial constraints, said Firdaus, who, like many Indonesians, has only one name.

“Health workers prefer to work in hospitals than to teach. They earn up to five times more money working in hospitals. It is difficult to attract teachers. It is not a promising profession. – yes it’s noble, but it doesn’t bring prosperity, “said Firdaus, whose school specializes in nursing and architecture.

Teacher shortages and lack of resources naturally translate into poor quality and poor performance of students, he said. This situation is compounded by other factors such as overloading of courses, demotivated students and a generally underproductive workforce. In addition, SMK students are unfairly opposed to graduates of higher education institutions in the same area of ​​specialization, he said.

“My students are in the second year (of vocational high school) when they go to work in hospitals. There, they are mixed with baccalauréat holders and baccalauréat holders of the same specialization. perform as well? ‘ They only had two years of beginner schooling, what do you expect? ” he said.

Firdaus said all parties involved in the vocational education sector must take collective responsibility for the alarming unemployment figures among SMK graduates, who have put vocational schools under scrutiny. “It is the sin of everyone, of all stakeholders, not just ours,” he said.


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