Govt to introduce vocational courses at secondary schools in Laos

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times) - Vocational programmes will soon become part of the curriculum at formal education schools across the country as part of the government’s policy to produce more skilled workers to meet development needs.

The move supports the government’s goal to get more people into employment while being able to provide the skilled labour required by industry.

Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Assoc. Prof. Dr Kongsy Sengmany, told Vientiane Times recently that learning a trade and producing a skilled workforce was critical for the growth of the economy and job creation.

“After students complete secondary school, they can work with private companies or be self-employed if they don’t want to continue their education,” he said.

Vocational courses are currently taught at ethnic schools in Champassak, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet provinces under a pilot project run by the Ministry of Education and Sports.

“In the near future, we will introduce vocational courses at secondary schools in all provinces. But we have to provide the necessary equipment and teachers for those schools,” Assoc. Prof. Dr Kongsy said. 

“To begin with, we may start the programme with subjects that don’t cost a lot, such as computer studies, accountancy, banking, business administration, beauty salon treatment, and hair styling.”

“Later, we will teach more subjects to train mechanics, electricians and construction workers. After graduation, students will be equipped with specific skills so they can work for companies or run their own business if they don’t want to continue their education. If they have the right skills, they can work anywhere,” he said.

At present, many companies employ unskilled Lao workers but bring in skilled labourers from other countries, so Laos has not fully benefited from the inflow of foreign investment.

Last year, 62,000 students graduated from secondary schools, of whom 16,000 enrolled in vocational schools.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Kongsy said 80 percent of those who studied at vocational schools were able to get jobs after graduation. They were now helping to boost the economy and generate revenue for the government.

In the past, many vocational school graduates set up their own businesses, especially those who trained to be mechanics and technicians.   

There is strong market demand for vocational skills in carpentry, construction and agriculture, but Lao people are not interested in studying these subjects.

“One of the main challenges is that no one informs us what type of skills they want workers to have, so we don’t know what areas to specialise in,” he said.

“At present, we train people according to what they want to study, not according to the real needs of industry. It’s essential that all parties involved sit down together to discuss what needs to be done.”

“We are ready to produce a skilled workforce for the private sector but we need more cooperation from them to identify what types of skills they want vocational schools to teach.”

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