Linking Vocational Education to Better Jobs in Indonesia

An ADB-supported project in Indonesia is helping people get the skills needed to find good-paying jobs.

Jakarta student Dinda Layallia has always been fascinated with anything that flies: butterflies, dragonflies, birds, kites, and airplanes - her favorite.

“I just love airplanes,” says Dinda. “When I was a child I would always run and wave at any airplane flying overhead.”

When Dinda graduated from junior high school 3 years ago, she asked to enroll in an aviation vocational school. Her parents initially rejected the idea, preferring to send her to a regular high school.

But Dinda did not want to go to a general high school, because she knew that it would be difficult for her parents to send her to a university to study aviation engineering. An expensive education was beyond their reach.

Dinda hoped to attend Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan (SMK) Negeri Penerbangan 29, a senior secondary vocational school in Jakarta, so she could get a job as an airplane mechanic right after graduation.

The school’s programs in mechanical engineering, electronics, refrigeration, and aviation are traditionally geared toward boys. Of the 890 students in the school, fewer than 90 are girls.

But Dinda’s determination finally convinced her parents to allow her to attend the school. She now stands a much better chance of making her dream come true.

Honing skills needed in the workplace

Her school is one of dozens of vocational schools in Indonesia supported by the Vocational Education Strengthening Project, which is financed by ADB. The project helped students learn the skills they need to get a job after graduation.

The government recognizes that workers need to upgrade their skills, particularly in the fields of technology and management, to help Indonesian companies compete globally. The challenge was to develop a curriculum that is up-to-date to match the skills needed in the workplace.

The Vocational Education Strengthening Project was launched in 2008 to directly address the mismatch between education programs and the skill needs of businesses.

“Improvement of vocational education in Indonesia is key to meeting the increasing demand for skilled workers.”

– Sutarum Wiryono, an education specialist at ADB

“The government wants to ensure that the country produces the skilled workers that meet both Indonesian companies’ and foreign investors’ needs,” says Sutarum Wiryono, an education specialist at ADB. “Improvement of vocational education in Indonesia is key to meeting the increasing demand for skilled workers.”

Strengthening school-industry links

The Vocational Education Strengthening Project has helped 90 model vocational schools by improving school facilities, upgrading the quality of teaching and learning, and strengthening school-industry links. The project links private companies directly with the schools, so they can advise on what skills are most needed in their industry.

Seven out of 10 graduates from the schools supported by the project have obtained jobs within 4 months from graduation, according to the Vocational Education Department in Indonesia’s Ministry of Education. Their graduates have generally been receiving higher-paying jobs than workers who graduated from vocational schools not assisted by the project. In addition, employers have reported that graduates from the project-supported schools are starting their new jobs with skills that more closely match what they need.

Administrators at schools covered by the project reported that the training they received allowed them to operate their schools more efficiently. They could also save money while helping more students. Income from business ventures with private companies also reduced the need for government assistance to the students, and decreased the amount that parents needed to pay as tuition.

Improving the quality of vocational education

The 15-year-old Bintang Jalu Rais Al-amin listens intently to an orientation talk given by a group of senior high school students. More than 400 new students are also in the auditorium of the state vocational school, SMK Negeri 2 Depok, in the Sleman district of Yogyakarta province.

Bintang, whose name means “star” in Bahasa Indonesia, has always wanted to study at the school. It is considered the top vocational school in the province, and the ninth best among 9,000 schools in the country.

There was a time when the institution had a reputation as a “second-class” school, producing only low-level employees. But this perception has changed after the school received support under the ADB project.

“I’m impressed by the achievements of the school, and I heard it has international recognition too,” Bintang says of the school where he plans to learn about manufacturing processes.

He knows that he has a strong chance of finding a good job after graduation. His cousin, who recently graduated from the school, did just that.

“My only dream now is to work,” says Bintang.

This article is an excerpt from a longer piece originally published in Together We Deliver, a publication highlighting successful ADB projects across Asia and the Pacific that demonstrated development impacts, best practice, and innovation.