Addressing the vocational challenges of young people in South Sulawesi

Findings of PAIR have concluded that young people in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi face a range of challenges in accessing education that, if addressed, will help lead to a more diverse range of job opportunities and create awareness of other vocations.


The team looked at the lives of young people, aged between 16 and 30, from several villages in the district of Maros, and examined whether their aspirations, life and skills connected with the work opportunities available to them.

The findings were presented to a meeting of the Research Advisory Panel, an expert grouping from industry, civil organisations and government which provides guidance on the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research research projects.

One of the main points raised in the meeting was the mismatch between the skills training provided at vocational schools and the job opportunities available in industry and business.

The research team has made several recommendations on how to better align student learning at vocational schools, known as SMKs, with real livelihood activities.

The guidance includes leveraging infrastructure projects to ensure they give young people job-ready skills, and creating a stronger collaboration between industry, government and vocational schools to improve the relevance of training programs. An example of this misalignment, as the researchers found, was that no young people in their study had found jobs on the construction of the province’s first railway line.

Young people account for more than a quarter of South Sulawesi’s population, so equipping them with relevant skills and knowledge is vital for future sustainable development of the province.

The important role of agriculture in the districts’ surveyed was also a theme of the meeting.

Food production is being threatened on several fronts, as farm lands are converted for other uses, while productivity is also decreasing.

The Australian Consul-General in Makassar, Bronwyn Robbins

The Australian Consul-General in Makassar, Bronwyn Robbins, raised this point in her opening address.

“The encroachment on farming land is especially concerning, as well as the decrease in yields and farm productivity. These factors lead to a decrease in earnings and threaten the future of farmers,” said Ms Robbins.

The situation is raising questions about food security and the future of farming. The research has found that many older people in the villages view farming as a job they don’t want their children to have, while many young people themselves aspire to working indoors and earning a salary, such as in the civil service or a job in an air-conditioned convenience store. However the reality is that for many, these kinds of jobs are out of reach.

The assistant deputy of Livestock and Fishery Agribusiness Development for the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs, Pujo Setio, said the researcher’s evidence has provided useful insight.

“For the local government this [research] is very important even though not all the recommendations can be implemented. We need to be a bridge and the results must reach the local government leadership so that policies can be implemented for the development of Maros for youth and labour,” he said.

The meeting heard that young people are rarely encouraged to view agriculture as a career, especially if they have the means to undertake higher education. Opportunities in modern agribusiness are also not well understood and there is a mindset that agricultural pursuits don’t require an education.

Many young people are leaving school early and entering work in trades or on farms or fisheries, with some migrating to Papua to find similar jobs.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

According to co-lead researcher Wilmar Salim, the main barrier to helping young people is establishing a proper mindset; he pointed to an agricultural program which was helping to do just that.

There was “increasing interest among millennial farmers with a university background” who were joining a program called the Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Support Services Program (YESS). He told the meeting that the educational level of those interested was challenging the mindset of the link between education and agribusiness.

Mr Setio said that different levels of government policy could be better coordinated to create a unified goal and the work ahead was critical.

“We need to strengthen agribusiness so they are not just workers but they are owners and actors. This is not simple as it requires education.”

The chief of the Policy Working Group at the National Team for the Acceleration of Poverty Reduction (TNP2K), Elan Satriawan, responded to issues around diminishing land ownership for smallholders, spatial planning and looking at the role of other institutions for training rather than relying only on SMKs.

“Your research findings are relevant for Maros but the issues are relevant to other areas. Such as in food security and unemployment,” said Dr Elan.

The meeting heard that there had been a welcome decrease in the poverty rate in some districts, and the labor force was made of 16 percent of youth, with males more likely to have only a primary education. That the unemployment rate in urban areas was higher, and many young people worked in services, followed by agriculture and manufacturing.

Image at top by Eko Rusdianto of Mongabay Indonesia

Picture of Helen Brown

Head of Communications and Outreach
The Australia-Indonesia Centre