Advocating for vocational education and young people in South Sulawesi

A PAIR team has advocated for vocational skills alignment in South Sulawesi by submitting several policy recommendations to the Indonesian directorate of vocational education.


Aligning the skills of vocational school (SMK) graduates with industry through identifying partnership opportunities was discussed when the PAIR team met with the Ministry of Education and Culture in Jakarta.

With a desire to unite the aspirations of young people in the Maros area, the youth and development research team, represented by Reni Suwarso and Christina Griffin met with the national director of SMK and director of Partnership and Alignment of Vocational Education with Business and Industry (MITRAS DUDI).

“We need to respect and acknowledge the different livelihood aspirations of young people, that they prefer to live and work in villages rather than migrate to cities,” said University of Indonesia senior researcher Dr Suwarso.

“To overcome the potential for skill mismatches, it is necessary to review SMK policies and programs,” she added.

The researchers explained how livelihood constraints and unemployment are having a negative impact on South Sulawesi’s economic development, especially in the Maros Regency which is experiencing a land transition from rural to an industrial area.

“Rural youth still aspire to village life and livelihoods. Yet they struggle to access land and sustain agriculture and aquaculture based livelihoods,” said Dr Griffin, co-researcher from Melbourne University.

The findings were discussed further with representatives from the Directorate of Vocational Schools.

Satrio Nugroho, a representative from Directorate of SMK, Ministry of Education and Culture in Jakarta. Image: Evelynd AIC


“Basically, vocational education must be able to prepare the younger generation for work and entrepreneurship to support the nation’s economic growth,” said Satrio Nugroho, one of the Directorate’s representatives.

“Now the policy for fostering SMKs has become the authority of the local government, while the centre only provides general guidelines,” said Satrio.

One of the ongoing programs of the vocational High Schools directorate known as “SMK Bisa Hebat” is to develop a Centre of Excellence in vocational education which it’s hoped can eliminate as much as possible the factors that cause mismatches and decreased competitiveness.

“Currently, SMK Hebat focuses on linking and matching competent SMK graduates with the needs of industry and the employment world” said Satrio Nugroho, a member of the Administrative Document Preparation team for the implementation of the regional public service agency (BLUD) for vocational high schools.

The Directorate of Partnership and Alignment of Vocational Education with Business and Industry is responsible for increasing awareness of the value of vocational learning and addressing needs in competency standards and professional guidance so that the vocational school graduates could meet global competition.

The Director of Partnership and Alignment of Vocational Education with Business and Industry, Mr Uuf Brajawidagda, and representatives. Image: Evelynd AIC


According to the Director of MITRAS DUDI, Uuf Brajawidagda, vocational schools should consider the economic environment.

Mr Brajawidagda said a specific mechanism was required to better understand what industry development is occurring in the district to understand future skills requirements.

The PAIR researchers felt they could help policymakers with this.

“This could enable us to extend our research, by mapping a model based on young people’s aspiration, gender, school locations, vocational school categories and type of industries in South Sulawesi,” said Dr Suwarso.

Mr Brajawidagda raised the idea of working with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) to find more incentives to increase industry support and encourage business participation in the vocational education program.

It is hoped further that PAIR could continue working with the directorate of SMK on creating opportunities for higher education scholarships for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Sulawesi.


Feature image: Dr Reni Suwarso, Senior Fellow from Universitas Indonesia, Dr Christina Griffin, Associate Fellow from University of Melbourne, Helen Fletcher-Kennedy, AIC. Image: Evelynd, AIC.

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The Australia-Indonesia Centre