How vocational education leaders can improve digital competencies of port workers

A Makassar New Port case study

Makassar’s port is a bustling hub of economic activity, attracting thousands of passengers and cargo shipments daily.

For young people seeking to enter the workforce, the port offers the chance to learn and use valuable digital skills.

To understand how accessible these opportunities are for youth, The Australia-Indonesia Centre studied vocational education and training (VET) schools in South Sulawesi.

The Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) program , supported by The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Indonesian Ministry of Transport and the South Sulawesi Government, focused on three main areas:

  • digital literacy of current VET students
  • alignment of these skills with the needs of port management
  • ways to improve the relationship between vocational schools and port management.

To gather data, the researchers used various methods, including interviews, focus group discussions, and surveys with four selected VET schools in Makassar.

To ensure a representative sample, the researchers selected four vocational schools based on factors such as public/private status, location, student and teacher populations, and academic performance.

They held focus groups with school principals or deputy principals, the human resources division at Makassar port, and policy stakeholders to delve into digital literacy competencies and explore options for developing digital literacy education and training for young people.

They also conducted an online survey of VET students to assess their digital literacy levels.

Based on findings, they created a digital literacy framework to gauge the skills gap, consisting of nine areas for measuring digital competencies. (See report)

Through this research, they identified opportunities to improve education and training programs at local VET schools in Makassar.


The report found that students at VET schools in Makassar generally lacked the vital digital skills needed for success at the port.

These skills include understanding supply chain management, computational and algorithmic thinking proficiency, and strong digital content fluency.

To close the skills gap, we must prioritise these areas in education and address several underlying issues, including the curriculum, teaching staff qualifications, learning facilities and infrastructure, and collaboration between vocational schools and industry to improve the digital literacy of VET students and better prepare them for success in the field.

Teaching quality

To ensure the competencies identified, we must prioritise the availability of qualified teaching staff.

The Ministry of Education and Culture regulates the certification of teachers in information and communication technology, computer skills and information management, software engineering, computer and network engineering, and multimedia.

However, the study found that some teachers of simulation and digital communication subjects do not possess the required certification.

Focus group discussions revealed that this is due to a lack of funding and a lack of desire among teaching staff to continue learning.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of learning also depends on the methodological skills of teaching staff to convey teaching materials (pedagogy).

The data shows that more than half of the teaching staff at vocational schools are not certified, with the level of certification at two vocational schools being just 10% and 23.64%, respectively.

Through discussions with the principal, it was revealed that teaching staff have a weak desire to continue learning, resulting in a low level of teacher certification.

Facilities and infrastructure

Under Indonesian regulations, a vocational school that offers learning in information and communication technology must have infrastructure and facilities such as computer laboratories, computers, and multimedia rooms.

The focus group discussions with school principals revealed some schools still have limited infrastructure and facilities because of financial limitations.

Adequate learning facilities and infrastructure are necessary to support sustainable learning, and the Minister of National Education regulates standards for these.

Cooperation with industry

We must recognise the importance of the relationship between industry and vocational education in the current development context.

This relationship is crucial and even becomes an absolute requirement because it ensures the relevance of vocational education to industrial needs and allows for joint education funding so that students are ready to enter the industry.

Furthermore, industry involvement opens opportunities for students to complete fieldwork and internships.

The study found that most schools have built partnerships with various sectors to develop curriculum alignment.

However, several schools are not yet working with the Makassar port, indicating the potential for future cooperation with the largest logistics industry in Indonesia.

A way forward

To address the gap in digital literacy skills, vocational schools in Makassar must take action:

  • Enhance their supply chain management-related digital competencies curricula and redesign curricula to reflect the digital skills needed in today’s business environment, using the proposed digital literacy framework as a guide.
  • Improve the teaching staff competencies to ensure that they meet standards, and schools should identify those staff members who still need digital competency certificates.
  • Develop more robust partnerships between local vocational schools and industry to better align with industry needs and provide students with job-ready experience.
  • Periodically assess the digital competencies of relevant staff using the digital literacy framework as an assessment tool to identify potential issues with inadequate skills.

For Australian vocational education and training providers, this research indicates opportunities to:

  • Partner with local institutions to enhance and deliver curricula, especially in digital literacy and supply chain management-related digital competencies.
  • Partner with the New Port of Makassar or Indonesia’s network of ports to explore the potential skills needs across Indonesia’s massive port operations network.
  • Support the Indonesian port authority by providing support to improve standards.


Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR), 2023, How vocational education leaders can improve digital competencies of port workers, Policy Brief, The Australia-Indonesia Centre.

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