To meet the future skills challenge, it is important to reflect on the successes and limitations of previous strategies. Education organisations across ASEAN have taken different approaches, but there has been some consensus on strategy through wide engagement within SEAMEO, (Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organisation). SEAMEO predates the creation of ASEAN and brings together the 11 ministries of education in ASEAN (it includes Timor-Leste as an 11th member). With 26 centres in 11 countries, it is an important contributor to success in the region with a focus on education, science, and culture. SEAMEO aims to support its members by gathering data and sharing best practice in training, skills development, and knowledge-sharing. ASEAN also has other forums like the ASEAN TVET Council, ASEAN Business Advisory Council and the ASEAN Future Workforce forum focussing dialogue and knowledge sharing across ASEAN. By retaining these spaces for dialogue, ASEAN stands in good stead to progress towards meeting the demands of the future skills challenge.
Looking to the future, SEAMEO are conducting several dialogues at national level both inside ASEAN and with their partners, discussing the need for higher level skills to keep up with the growth in automation and AI. With 650 million people in the region, access to quality education and skills training is very difficult. Additionally, labour market information systems are still lacking, rendering it difficult to address the gap between supply and demand. For many ASEAN members, their large populations also create enormous challenges in providing quality skills provision. For this reason, policy best practice and advice on TVET governance is critical.
Students within ASEAN countries are aware that the region is attracting significant attention from overseas investors. This has led to increasing interest in courses with an international dimension which provide opportunities to work overseas. In Vietnam education providers, such as the International School of Business in Ho Chi Minh City, are now offering students a wider choice of opportunities to gain international qualifications. Student courses delivered in English often include the opportunity to study abroad, depending on funds, and students are also guaranteed access to visiting professors from a growing list of partner countries. Within these cohorts, 75% of graduates find work in multi-national businesses after graduating. A key component to this success is continually working with employers to ensure the curriculum remains relevant. If courses are not up to date, industry professionals are invited to assist in adjusting any shortcomings and refreshing courses to ensure validity. Going forwards, mutual recognition of qualifications could be a key driver for positive change in the region.