Jen Bahen from TAFE Directors Australia explains how to enter the Indonesian market

vocational education and training

With an ambitious skills reform agenda on the table, Indonesia is searching for ways to tap into the massive potential of its 260 million citizens – many of whom are of working age – in order to become one of the world’s largest economies. Are there opportunities for Australian education and training providers to engage with Indonesia in its mission of human capital development?

Jen Bahen, Director for International Education at TAFE Directors Australia, certainly thinks so:

“Australia’s got some particular strengths, when it comes to vocational education and training – relevant industry-based training and train-the-trainer opportunities are two particular areas where Australian TAFEs … can work with Indonesian partners to help them develop their own system,” she says.

Highlighted in the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s Stronger Education Partnerships report, TAFE Queensland is one such example of a successful venture in Indonesia. Working closely with the Central Java government, TAFE Queensland has developed train-the-trainer programs in Indonesia, and has also just completed a three-week training program in Semarang, Central Java, where the participants of the program spent a week at the TAFE Queensland campus. Melbourne Polytechnic is another example; they offer specialised training in music production, both in Indonesia and, for a part of the course, in Melbourne.

Watch our interview with Jen Bahen:

What does success look like?

Bahen says that Australian expertise in skills and training is well-recognised around the world, and that forming sustainable, trust-based partnerships is the best way to tap into Indonesia’s education market.

However, she identifies that Australian TAFEs operate in a unique domain in Indonesia, and are more focused on commercial arrangements or project-based work, rather than a bricks-and-mortar type operation. She says, “We’ve got some very active TAFEs operating in Indonesia, and they have for many years, but it doesn’t look like a university campus offshore.”

Download our Stronger Education Partnerships report for more on how Australian education providers can break into the Indonesian market

Australian TAFEs generally deliver qualifications that meet the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), built to meet the needs of an Australian industry, and as such their standard courses won’t necessarily suit the conditions of the Indonesian context. A strength of this sector in terms of entering Indonesia is its adaptability and, with that, it’s portability.

“We need to take account of Indonesia’s industry and government needs,” she says, pointing to TAFE Queensland and Melbourne Polytechnic as examples of ventures that are specifically developed to meet the needs of the Indonesian market.

(This applies to Australian markets too – where, for example, Holmesglen TAFE has recently launched Australia’s first tunnelling training centre to supply the skilled workers needed on Melbourne’s huge Metro Tunnel project.)

Looking forward, Bahen flags that a joint in-country operation isn’t necessarily on the cards for Australian TAFEs, because the needs of Indonesian industry may look different to those of Australian industry. Another barrier to the bricks and mortar type operation is that of price: students in Indonesia wanting to access vocational education and training may not have the same kind of resources as a student wanting to access a university qualification.

But this model of operation – commercial arrangements or project-based work – actually allows TAFEs to do what they do best, Bahen says: “The thing that [TAFEs] do best is actually understand the needs of industry, and create, deliver or tailor programs that are appropriate to that need.”

For more information about how Australian education providers can engage with Indonesia, view or download our Stronger Education Partnerships report, which details sector-specific opportunities across five key education sectors (higher education, vocational education and training, ELICOS, schools and educational technology), and offers insights into what a more engaged education relationship with Indonesia could look like.