In 2003, ASEAN leaders agreed in principle to establishing an ASEAN Economic Community which would aim to bring down barriers between ASEAN member states to establish ASEAN as a single market and production base for the global market to help make the region as a whole a much more competitive entity. A key focus of the AEC was human resources, where an ASEAN region was envisioned where any skilled citizen of an ASEAN nation would have the opportunity to freely move and work in any other member state, allowing all states to benefit from each other’s strengths.

Since then, an army of stakeholders have been working together to try and make the AEC a reality.  As January 1, 2016 clicked over, we entered into the official era of the AEC, yet now August we still haven’t seen much to show of it. was invited to attend the International Conference on the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 8-9, 2016.  We were interested to see whether or not all the hype around the AEC was warranted, and more importantly, whether or not the dream of one ASEAN economic region that allows the free movement of skilled labour will ever really take flight.

No Free Movement of Skilled Labour Without Standards

It might make us feel warm and fuzzy to think we can openly accept any so-called ‘skilled’ individual from a sister ASEAN state to come and work for us in a position in our hotel, but how can we be sure that they will actually be competent in that position?

Australia’s Wayne Crosbie of the William Angliss Institute has worked behind the scenes for many years now with teams from all over the region, working out a Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum (CATC) for all the jobs covered in the Hospitality and Tourism industry, and then developed a full suite of ‘toolboxes’, including training courses, training resources, train the trainer programmes and other resources that the industry could use across ASEAN to ensure competencies were standardised throughout the AEC.

This curriculum is based on Australia’s – and more pertinently, the Australian state of Victoria’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) certification framework.

The Qualifications and Level Indicators for the Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum are as follows:

**Framework Level****Level Indicator**
Level 5 – Advanced DiplomaSophisticated,, broad and specialised comptetence with senior management skills
Level 4 – DiplomaSpecialised competence with managerial skills
Level 3 – Certificate IVGreater technical competence with supervisory skills
Level 2 – Certificate IIIBroad range of skills in more varied context and team leader responsibilities
Level 1 – Certificate IIBasic, routine skills in a defined context

The Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum (CATC) is the final product of 410 participating stakeholders across the region.  As a result, a curriculum has been developed for 52 qualifications across 6 labour divisions:

**Cert II****Cert III****Cert IV****Diploma****Advanced Diploma****Sub-Total**
Food & Bev22311**9**
Food Production23311**10**
Front Office11111**5**
Tour Operation (Management)23421**12**
Travel Agencies33311**11**

What about Recognition of Existing Learning, Skills and / or Experience?

The system was designed to take Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) into consideration, to allow those people who are already in the industry to get credit for their existing skills and experience.  Right now however, it seems that this is not yet being implemented.

Each country has a core body that has been nominated as the caretaker of the system (National Tourism Professional Body – NTPB) and the body that manages the certification (National Tourism Certification Body – NTCB).  This is usually the country’s national tourism authority.  In the case of Thailand, it is the Tourism Authority of Thailand that plays this role.

To date, 20 master trainers have been accredited and select institutions have started to facilitate competency training for the industry.

In theory, the learning materials are freely available to anyone to use.  The assessment and accreditation however must be carried out by the nominated National Tourism Certification Body.  It is up to each country to set the fees involved for such certification.  We spoke with a representative of Bangkok University’s hospitality faculty, which is one of the institutions that has been nominated as an accredited training institution to run the competency training.  They said that right now, there is not a definite price structure in place, and while in theory anyone can learn from the freely provided materials and go for accreditation independently, the only option available is to undergo the training courses and then subsequent accreditation assessment with the accredited assessors at the institute.  The reason given for this was that the system was still in its infancy and that they are looking to ensure that it functions correctly before permutations of the system are permitted.

Will Hotels Use The Training Toolboxes?

The question of whether or not people in the industry would actually use the training provided.  Are the courses really relevant to the training needs of individual properties?  Can the training be run in the local language?  Are existing training programmes at hotels better than the programmes provided under the CATC?

As a training professional, the courses / toolboxes have been produced in a very professional manner and are complete training packages that would be a dream to use for any HR department.  They are complete with trainer manuals, participant manuals, slides, assessments and other resources.   While many properties might have their own brand specific modules that they might want to add, the core modules in the training packages are very practical and value for any hospitality professional.  Here is a list of some of the training modules to give you an idea of what is covered:

  1. Access and retrieve computer-based data
  2. Apply basic techniques of commercial cookery
  3. Apply catering control principles & procedures
  4. Apply std safety procedures for handling foodstuff
  5. Clean and maintain industrial work area and equipment
  6. Clean and maintain kitchen equipment and utensils
  7. Clean and prepare rooms for in-coming guests
  8. Clean and tidy beverage and food service areas
  9. Clean public areas, facilities and equipment
  10. Coach others in job skills
  11. Communicate effectively in English on a telephone
  12. Communicate on the telephone
  13. Comply with workplace hygiene procedures
  14. Conduct a night audit
  15. Converse in English at a basic operational level
  16. Deliver a short oral presentation in English
  17. Design a concept for a major event or function
  18. Design meals to meet spec market req
  19. Design meals to meet specific dietary or cultural needs
  20. Design, prepare and present various types of reports
  21. Develop and maintain food & beverage product knowledge
  22. Develop and supervise operational approaches
  23. Develop and update local knowledge
  24. Develop and update tourism industry knowledge
  25. Develop new products and services
  26. Develop protective environments for children in tourism destinations
  27. Escort, carry and store valuable items
  28. Establish and maintain a business relationship
  29. Establish and maintain a safe and secure workplace
  30. Establish and maintain quality control in food
  31. Evaluate the effectiveness of assessment system
  32. Facilitate out-going phone calls
  33. Gather and present product information
  34. Identify and prepare various meats
  35. Implement occupational health and safety procedures
  36. Launder linen and guests clothes
  37. Maintain a paper-based filing and retrieval system
  38. Maintain and operate an industrial laundry
  39. Maintain financial standards and records
  40. Maintain guests financial records
  41. Maintain hospitality industry knowledge
  42. Maintain quality customer guest service
  43. Maintain strategies for safe food storage
  44. Maintain the safety of premises and personnel
  45. Maintain the security of premises and property
  46. Manage & implement small projects
  47. Manage an assessment system for training outcomes
  48. Manage and operate a coffee shop
  49. Manage and resolve conflict situations
  50. Manage intoxicated persons
  51. Manage payroll records
  52. Manage responsible service of alcohol
  53. Manage special events
  54. Manage the effective use of human resources
  55. Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of training outcomes
  56. Monitor catering revenue and costs
  57. Monitor workplace operations
  58. Observe and monitor people
  59. Operate a bar facility
  60. Operate a cellar system
  61. Operate a computerised reservation system
  62. Operate a fast food outlet
  63. Operate a private automatic brand exchange (PABX)
  64. Operate basic security equipment
  65. Organise and prepare food products and services
  66. Organise food service operations
  67. Organise functions
  68. Perform basic First Aid procedures
  69. Perform child protection duties
  70. Perform clerical procedures
  71. Plan and conduct an evacuation of premises
  72. Plan and implement a series of training events
  73. Plan and manage menu-based catering
  74. Plan prepare display buffet service
  75. Plan, conduct and evaluate a staff performance assessment
  76. Plan, manage and conduct meetings
  77. Prepare a business letter in advanced English
  78. Prepare a variety of sandwiches
  79. Prepare and cook poultry and game meats
  80. Prepare and cook seafood
  81. Prepare and deliver a presentation
  82. Prepare and deliver training sessions
  83. Prepare and display petit fours
  84. Prepare and display sugar work
  85. Prepare and model marzipan
  86. Prepare and monitor budgets
  87. Prepare and present gateaux, torten and cakes
  88. Prepare and produce cakes and pastries
  89. Prepare and produce yeast goods
  90. Prepare and serve cocktails
  91. Prepare and serve non-alcoholic beverages
  92. Prepare and store foods
  93. Prepare appetisers and salads
  94. Prepare bakery products for patisserie
  95. Prepare chocolate and produce chocolate products
  96. Prepare financial statements
  97. Prepare hot, cold and frozen dessert dishes
  98. Prepare portion-controlled meat cuts
  99. Prepare soups
  100. Prepare stock and sauces
  101. Prepare tenders for catering contracts
  102. Prepare vegetables, eggs and farinaceous dishes
  103. Present and display food products
  104. Present desserts
  105. Process a financial sale transaction
  106. Process liquor sales at a bar facility
  107. Produce docs reports worksheets on a computer
  108. Promote products and services to customers
  109. Provide Bell Boy-Porter services
  110. Provide a link between kitchen and service area
  111. Provide a lost and found facility
  112. Provide accommodation reception services
  113. Provide advice to patrons on food & beverage services
  114. Provide food & beverage services
  115. Provide for the safety of VIPs
  116. Provide gueridon service
  117. Provide housekeeping services to guests
  118. Provide info about in-house services
  119. Provide international (IDD) service information
  120. Provide professional support to business colleagues
  121. Provide room service
  122. Provide silver service
  123. Provide valet services to guests
  124. Read and interpret basic instructions
  125. Read general information texts or media
  126. Receive and Resolve customer complaints
  127. Receive and place in-coming phone calls
  128. Receive and process reservations
  129. Receive and store kitchen supplies and food stock
  130. Receive and store stock
  131. Recruit and select staff
  132. Respond effectively to instructions given in English
  133. Select catering systems
  134. Select, prepare and serve special cuisines
  135. Select, prepare and serve various cheeses
  136. Serve a range of wine products
  137. Start conversations and develop good relations with guests
  138. Take food orders and provide table service
  139. Use common business tools and technology
  140. Use oral English to convey a complex exchange of ideas
  141. Work cooperatively in a general administration environment
  142. Work effectively with customers and colleagues
  143. Work in a socially diverse environment
  144. Write a short message in English

When asked if the training could be done in the local language, while one of the project managers from the William Angliss Institute Wayne Crosbie said that in theory, yes they could, in reality all modules but a few language related modules could be localised into the local languages of ASEAN, Bpk Eddy Krismedi, Senior Officer at the ASEAN Secretariat stated that all training would be conducted in English and accreditation would be based on the English versions of the courses, as English is the official common language of ASEAN.

What’s Will Link HR Departments and Skilled Individuals Around the Region?

While this MRA TP event was mainly about the competencies, standards and training that has been developed to make sure that there is a standardised workforce moving throughout ASEAN, the system that has been developed to facilitate all of this movement is just as robust.  It is called the Asean Tourist Professionals’ Registration System or ‘ATPRS’ for short.  Think of it as an ASEAN version of Linked in or Facebook for HR Departments and individuals looking for work.  The system for the time being, cuts the middle man out of hiring, connecting HR departments directly with talent across the region, eliminating the need for recruitment agencies.  There have been security policies built into the business end of the system to ensure that people can’t just go randomly searching other people’s profiles and only qualified individuals will be matched with appropriate job roles that come available in the system. has covered the ATPRS in the past and you can read more about the system in detail here. We were told that anyone being officially employed under the AEC, must be registered in the ATPRS system and employed through it. There is another mechanism that might be available for some employers to hire qualified specialists outside of the system, however that was not elaborated on.

Great – We Have A System, When Will We Be Able to Use It?

Right now, it would seem that everything is in place for this to work – the entire Common ASEAN Tourism Curriculum is completed, trainers have been trained and accredited, institutions are open for business and ready to train the curriculum and accredit individuals and the ATPRS registration system / platform is ready and functioning. There’s only one catch now – when will each of the individual governments of the ASEAN member nations have the legal mechanisms ready that will allow visas and work permits based on employment and migration of labour using this system?  

For example, right now Burmese and Cambodian qualified migrant workers in Thailand are issued a special ‘Yellow Card’ by the Thai Labour Ministry that allows them to work in lower level jobs in Thailand legally.  Does that mean now that should these Burmese and Cambodian employees get accredited and registered in the ATPRS and find a job through it, that they will be eligible for a proper work visa and standard work permit?

Right now the answer is an emphatic ‘no’, and nobody who we spoke with can give a definitive answer as to when or even if this will ever be possible.  

If that is the case, then has all of this work been done and hundreds of millions of dollars been spent for nothing? If you are in an ASEAN member state, perhaps this is a question you could ask your current members of parliament.