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.
Hotelintel.co 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.
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 Diploma||Sophisticated,, broad and specialised comptetence with senior management skills|
|Level 4 – Diploma||Specialised competence with managerial skills|
|Level 3 – Certificate IV||Greater technical competence with supervisory skills|
|Level 2 – Certificate III||Broad range of skills in more varied context and team leader responsibilities|
|Level 1 – Certificate II||Basic, 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 & Bev||2||2||3||1||1||**9**|
|Tour Operation (Management)||2||3||4||2||1||**12**|
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.
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:
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.
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. Hotelintel.co 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.
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.