OVEC aims for 200,000 robotics-trained workers by 2024
Yuthana Praiwan and Suchit Leesa-Nguansuk | Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post, Thailand (17 December 2020) - The Office of the Vocational Education Commission (OVEC) aims to teach 5,200 Thai vocational students per year the skills required to work alongside and maintain factory robots to meet the estimated demand of 200,000 robotics-trained workers by 2024.
In a jointly held webinar “5 New S-Curve” by Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Post Today and the Bangkok Post, OVEC deputy secretary-general Monthon Paksuwan said education policymakers have teamed up with private firms to offer upskilling courses in robotics.
The ministry launched a revamped scheme "Thailand vocation education ecosystem project" last October in effort to improve vocational students training primarily in robotics to serve future industrial demand.
Before the project launched, leading industrial firms in Thailand were invited to offer input on what skills are in high demand at Thai factories.
Under this scheme, the OVEC aims to train students in the skills required to work with robots in factories to meet the estimated demand for 70,000 workers at present and 200,000 workers by 2024.
Mr Monthon said the project will begin with mechatronics and robotic courses taught at 161 private and state schools nationwide to a total of 5,200 students per year, under the Human Capital Excellent Center (HCEC).
HCEC plans to double capacity by reskilling and upskilling existing factory workers.
The goal of the scheme is to meet market demand for workers with basic robotics skills at a time when factories are moving to Thailand from China, and existing factories are upgrading their facilities with robotics.
HCEC is also launching special courses to retrain teachers and help them keep up with changing robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Katiya Kraikarn, honourable adviser to Electrical and Electronics Industry Allies from the Federation of Thai Industries, said robotics have the potential to greatly improve productivity, while still needing assistance from human workers.
He said to build the infrastructure necessary for AI and robotics industries, policymakers should offer financial support to robotic service providers and buyers to boost demand.
Djitt Laowattana, executive adviser of the Eastern Economic Corridor Human Development Center (EEC HDC), said the use of robotics in the Thai industry has jumped to 20,000 units following the need to replace the human workforce, especially migrant workers.
He said robotics and digital technology are still thriving even in the face of the pandemic.
From January to November, the automation and robotics industry players, which have received incentives from the Board of Investment, booked 651 million baht in investment, up from 29 million baht last year.
By early 2021, the EEC area will be ready for the 5G network to help move Industrial 4.0 forward, Mr Djitt said. Smart manufacturing will take shape with the integration of automation, Internet of Things (IoT), big data and cloud in the production process.
In the EEC, demand for robotic skill workforce has jumped from around 30,000 to 50,000 after the pandemic.
"Previously Thailand used 3,000-4,000 units of industrial robotics, but this has risen to 10,000-20,000 units to replace the human workforce, particularly migrant workers," Mr Djitt said.
Robotics will become more like commodities very soon, he said, adding Thailand should strive to leverage and apply technology to increase value for the country.
Thailand should gear up for the production of platforms for robotic control, Mr Djitt said.
"The platform could enable foreign robotics to be plugged into the system via application programming interface. This could create value and integration in the robotic system," he said.
Tawatchai Lerksumrand, deputy director for mobile business at True Corp, said Thailand has the potential for robotic adoption in service sectors, such as exhibitions and food business.
Robotics can also be used in the agricultural sector to boost productivity, he said.
"With the advancement of cloud and AI technology, this could empower robotics to be smarter and more upgraded," he said. "Thailand could focus on the integration of robotics systems and modules."