The 4th Regional Skills Technical Working Group (RSTWG) Meeting was held in Manila, Philippines on 10-11 July 2018 with the theme “Moving Towards the Mutual Recognition of Skills Implementation in the ASEAN”. The ASEAN Confederation of Employers (ACE) was invited to provide inputs on the proposed national action plans on the implementation of the mutual recognition of skills among the ASEAN member states.   The RSTWG meetings bring together representatives from the TVET and Labor Agencies of the ASEAN countries to discuss the development and eventual implementation of a mutually recognized skills framework within the region. The International Labour Organization (ILO), in close collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat developed the Mutual Recognition of Skills (MRS) Programme to further facilitate the free flow of labor within the region.   In contrast to the Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) in Services which targets professionals, the MRS programme targets middle-to-low skilled workers which comprises the bulk of migration within the ASEAN. Both MRA and MRS can be implemented side-by-side.   In a position paper published in 2015, ACE supported the MRA in pursuit of a freer flow of labor within the region. According to the position paper, the MRA “represents a major facilitating instrument for building and furthering skilled labour mobility by providing a greater human resource base with improved employment opportunities.” The MRS presents a new opportunity to further maximize the abilities and employability of the ASEAN labor force, particularly on technical vocational skills.   The implementation of the MRS program will heavily depend on the trust and confidence that education and training institutions, as well as employers, place on the credentials and validity of qualifications that each ASEAN member states issues.   Some of the issues raised during the meeting include the following:  

  1. Referencing of National Qualifications Frameworks to the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework

    The ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF) is a device that an enable comparisons of National Qualifications Frameworks (NQF) across ASEAN member states. Mutual recognition of skills will be made easier if each country links their NQFs with the AQRFs through a process called referencing.

    However, not all ASEAN member states have established National Qualifications Frameworks yet. This delays effective referencing to the AQRF as well as the implementation of the MRS.

  2. Adherence of the MRS to the ASEAN Guiding Principles for Quality Assurance and Recognition of Competency Certification Systems

    Developed to aid the implementation of MRAs, the ASEAN Guiding Principles for Quality Assurance and Recognition of Competency Certification Systems is a tool that provides principles and protocols for developing processes for the recognition of certification systems among the member states. The body raised that the guiding principles also needs to be applied to the implementation of the MRS programme.

  3. Involvement of the Employers Sector

    ACE raised that hardly any of the national action plans include initiatives on engaging the employer sector. Employer participation in the implementation of the MRS is indispensable since they provide jobs and are the main source of information on skills demands. However, employers would need support in understanding skills referencing and hiring foreign workers.

  Vietnam will host the 5th RSTWG meeting which will be held in 2019. ACE Secretary General and ECOP Director General Mr. Jose Roland A. Moya represented the organization in the meeting.