Talking about the labor market in Indonesia cannot be separated from the presence of Vocational High Schools (SMK). The educational model in SMK has been designed to prepare ready-to-use workforce candidates in Indonesia. This educational institution offers a wide range of skills areas and focuses. In practice, unethical recruitment often involves multiple actors or institutions.
In April 2018, the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) conducted an in-depth study of “fake apprenticeship” cases in Kendal, Central Java and East Nusa Tenggara. This case started with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between a number of SMKs in Kendal and PT Sofia Sukses Sejati. From the process of investigation by the authorities, the students were restricted their mobility for several months and placed not at the company/place promised beforehand. Entanglement like this often plunges workers into exploitative recruitment and makes them vulnerable to human trafficking (TPPO). Vocational schools can ideally play a role in equipping their graduates with knowledge about labor market conditions that meet ethical recruitment standards and prepare them not to be trapped in exploitative recruitment.
For this reason, the Institute for Education Development, Social, Religious and Culture Studies (INFEST) Yogyakarta together with the Office of Education, Youth and Sports of the Wonosobo District (Dinas Pendidikan, Pemuda dan Olahraga Kabupaten Wonosobo-Disdikpora) supported by Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) plan to initiate the program “Vocational High School Participation (SMK) in Preventing Exploitative Recruitment” in 2022. This program aims to strengthen the role of SMKs in preventing the exploitative recruitment of job seekers by implementing teaching materials on ethical recruitment and decent work.
As a first step to realizing this program plan, the INFEST Foundation together with the Disdikpora Wonosobo District held a program planning meeting on February 28, 2022. This meeting was the first step to discussing the current objectives and conditions for SMKs in Wonosobo Regency as well as designing a joint work plan.
This meeting was also opened by the Head of the Vocational School Development Division at the Education and Culture Office of Central Java Province, Ainur Rojik, Head of the Office of Education, Youth and Sports of the Wonosobo District Tono Prihatono, and Executive Director of the INFEST Yogyakarta Foundation Muhammad Irsyadul Ibad. Furthermore, representatives from the Manpower and Transmigration Office, school principals and teachers supporting the SMK Special Job Exchange (BKK) in Wonosobo Regency were also present.
Vocational High School Students’ Vulnerability in the Working World
The KPAI Commissioner, Ai Maryati Solihan, in her presentation said that Indonesia had ratified the ‘Palermo protocol’ in Law Number 14 of 2009 concerning ‘Ratification of Protocols to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, Supplementing The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime’. In addition, Indonesia also has Law Number 21 of 2007 concerning ‘Prevention of the Crime of Trafficking in Persons’.
Maryati continued, from KPAI data there were 2,681 cases of complaints of violations of children’s rights, especially related to trafficking and exploitation of children during the 2011-2021 period. In KPAI records, there are several cases faced by SMK students. In 2018, cases of alleged “fake apprenticeships” abroad involved vocational students in Kendal, Central Java and East Nusa Tenggara. As many as 600 students have become victims of alleged child labor in Malaysia. KPAI’s findings include standard operating procedures (SOP) for recruitment and placement that are not transparent; the placement not matching the information; indications of levies; unpaid allowances; and even violence.
In 2020, moreover, as many as 80 vocational students in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta, allegedly experienced violence and neglect during their apprenticeship on a cruise ship. Then, in 2021, a well-known high school (SMA) in Batu City which consists of dormitories is suspected of employing students in 10 companies without clear SOPs. The KPAI results showed that the children worked until midnight.
“From these cases it is important for local governments and SMKs to have SOPs and technical regulations regarding child-friendly apprenticeships. Furthermore, it is important when selecting from the business world to ensure eligibility or standards regarding school cooperation with companies that accept apprentices,” explained Maryati.
The Chairperson of the Wonosobo District Vocational School Principal Working Conference (MKKS) said that one of the demands for SMKs today is the absorption of graduates in the working world. For this reason, cooperation with the business world and industry has begun to be established by each SMK. Several companies that have collaborated with SMKs in Wonosobo Regency are engaged in the manufacturing, plantation, automotive and mining sectors.
The Principal of Kalikajar Vocational School, Rohmat Istiyadi stated that currently job vacancy information is scattered in cyberspace and social media. For this reason, schools through the BKK always screen information on job vacancies before delivering it to students. In addition to job offers, there are companies that offer work packages while studying.
Program to Strengthen the Role of SMKs
Irsyadul Ibad, said that this program aims to strengthen the role and capacity of SMKs in preventing exploitative recruitment. Over the next year, the INFEST Foundation would learn together with vocational teachers about decent work and responsible work. He hoped, through this forum, plans could be drawn up together and become a joint program. “As done with the Wonosobo district government, we are planning together so that this program can work together and bring good,” explained Irsyadul Ibad.
Irsyadul Ibad added, this program is supported by the Responsible Business Alliance or RBA, “RBA is a coalition of companies in the world that work together to realize social and ethical responsibility in global supply chains,” added Irsyadul Ibad.
Tono Prihatono, said that this program is a joint work and bridging between the district and provincial governments. After Law Number 23 of 2014 concerning Regional Government, the authority to manage SMKs is at the provincial level. Nevertheless, there are good intentions and hopes from the district government, where children who attend vocational schools are children of Wonosobo district. “Collaboration between parties, bridges between districts and provinces, hopefully can produce good output,” explained Tono.
Ainur Rojik, the head of the Vocational School Development Office at the Education and Culture Office of Central Java Province, conveyed the same thing. He appreciated the initiative from the INFEST Foundation and hoped that this program would run smoothly and bring benefits.