AIC – South Sulawesi Joint Webinar: Fostering bilateral collaboration for young people skills and training in South Sulawesi

South Sulawesi’s young people are incredibly large and diverse. Sixteen to 30-year-olds make up a quarter of a population of more than eight million. This is a window of opportunity for regional and national development with a demographic bonus that is estimated to reach its peak in 2025-2045.


In celebration of South Sulawesi’s 352nd anniversary (19 October) and Indonesian Youth Oath Day (28 October), the AIC and the Sulsel government joined for a webinar focused on this important topic.

“Young people are a major focus of the AIC’s work. We explore topics like infrastructure, agribusiness, health, digital economy and skills and training,” said AIC executive director Dr Eugene Sebastian in his opening remarks. “This event reflects the deep partnership between the Centre and the provincial government.”

The Australia-Indonesia Centre and the Provincial Government of South Sulawesi signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2020 to advance their relationship across science, technology, education and training. The agreement outlines collaboration in the fields of education, health, infrastructure, tourism, environment, agriculture, livestock and animal health and the mining sectors.

Economic growth and large infrastructure projects are already creating opportunities for the region’s youth. In order to maximise their potential and enhance the social, economic and environmental changes already sweeping the region, Sulsel’s young people will need greater access to training and skills development.

“There are opportunities for stronger bilateral collaboration in education, skills and training with Australia,” said Dr Hasnawati Saleh, PAIR Research Coordinator.

“This is emphasised in the Blueprint for Investment which calls on the Australian education sector to also consider subnational opportunities both at the provincial and local levels, not just Jakarta or Java.”

The need for multi-sectoral partnerships

A panel discussion presented a dialogue between policymakers in both South Sulawesi and Australia to encourage multi-sectoral partnerships in the VET sectors.

South Sulawesi has a high demand for vocational education and training services that will meet industry needs and provincial priorities. However, creating this kind of training program requires more work and multi-sectoral collaboration.

As an example, the VET sector in Australia has a number of stakeholders at both state and federal level, including regulators and providers from industry, the private sector and the public sector.

Australian state commissioners shared the examples of work in multi-sectoral VET programs where students can go straight to work or pathway to learning at another campus upon completion of a six month program internship.

“The training program can be customized to suit the needs of the local market and it’s an acceptable learning pathway,” said Belinda Rimbo from the Victorian government.

In this discussion, engagement and collaboration between VET bodies in Australia and South Sulawesi is strongly encouraged to improve Sulsel’s vocational systems, match individuals with the right sets of skills, and meet industry needs.

“The South Sulawesi provincial government together with Indonesia’s Ministry of Manpower has conducted various vocational training programs developed in community skills training centres, but it will never be enough until we work together to improve them,” said Andi Sudirman Sulaiman, Sulsel Acting Governor in his recorded remarks.

This was also confirmed by the Trade Commissioner for Queensland, Ben Giles.

“Probably the most successful and the best known partnership is the sister state, sister province relationship with a central charter,” Mr Giles said.“There has been some teacher exchanges and also some skills and training work since 1991.

“And certainly what I have found and has probably proven, is that when industry or the private sector from Australia, and also probably from the Indonesian side as well gets involved, that’s where there is real success.”

Challenges since COVID-19 pandemic

The panelists also discussed the impact of the pandemic upon education and training during the past two years. Quality education and skills based on the needs of the market or industry is considered one of the main assets to carry out upward mobility, especially for marginalised groups where their personal conditions are exacerbated by the pandemic.

“The COVID 19 pandemic has had a significant impact on young people’s employment opportunities. It is our duty to provide them with the skills that can be used during the crisis,” said Andi Darmawan Bintang, head of BAPPELITBANGDA Sulsel.

The pandemic has also become an obstacle in training cooperation between the two countries with the halting of several student exchange programs.

“Traditionally the kind of education relationship between Australia and Indonesia has often relied on Indonesian international students, traveling to Australia to undertake either vocational courses or higher education courses,” said Clarice Campbell from Katalis.

“So what we’re actually quite concerned about is trying to think of ways that we can have this delivery happening in Indonesia, rather than relying on international students coming to Australia.”

A number of factors were identified for both the Australian and Indonesian sides to consider in order to help create lasting relationships with Australian training and skills providers.

“It’s part of the role of the Australian government, and also the government of Indonesia, of course, to try to facilitate this environment where cooperation and partnerships of this type are feasible,” said Elizabeth Campbell-Dorning from the Australian Government DFAT.

The panel discussion sought to answer the question about future cooperation between the two countries. Unlocking South Sulawesi’s human development potential will require new, creative, and comprehensive forms of international education partnerships. These will need to help deliver high quality skills, education, and training, but also  collaborate with the provincial government in a coordinated way.

This event was attended by Sulsel’s provincial and local government officials, development accelerator team (TGUPP), university and VET providers, business, industry, and NGOs.  Bringing these diverse players together will help build consistent and high quality education and training services, sensitive to the unique needs of the provincial population.

Bronwyn Robbins, Consul General of Australia in Makassar, delivered the closing remarks

“Engaging with South Sulawesi represents an opportunity to work together, to understand both individual and cross cultural VET needs, and the Australia Indonesia Centre understands these needs well,” said Ms Robbins said.

AIC executive director Eugene Sebastian said this discussion was just the start of important work.

“Next year the Centre will launch a series of reports mapping South Sulawesi’s skills needs,” Dr Sebastian said.

“We are looking forward to the results of PAIR research on this topic.”

Picture of Fadhilah Trya Wulandari

PAIR Program Officer
The Australia-Indonesia Centre