A path to greater diversity in management of Indonesian ports workforce

A team of Australian and Indonesian researchers has identified the need for more soft skills and gender diversity in Indonesia’s ports workforce, if the nation is to achieve its ambition to become a major sea power.

The Port of Makassar is one of Indonesia’s primary ports and has the highest passenger traffic among all its ports, and the largest cargo traffic in the province of Sulawesi.

But to ensure its workforce is fit-for-purpose, the final report from a research project co-executed by academics from Melbourne and Indonesia provides several recommendations to support development in the ports sector.

Professor Alexander Babanin, Dr Elisa Lumantarna and Professor Abbas Rajabifard from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering, and Professor Muhammad Arysad and colleagues from Hasanuddin University, Indonesia, co-authored the report: Capacity building program in seaport engineering and operation at Makassar New Port. It was published by the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

The project focussed on young people aged 16-30 in South Sulawesi, the province’s largest demographic. With the province currently experiencing significant economic growth, the project was designed to help ensure all young people are able to take advantage of development opportunities.

The team identified gaps in the knowledge and skills of young workers in port engineering and operations by comparing their existing knowledge and skills with industry expectations.

They provided recommendations for port operators, education providers and government agencies, including the need for more emphasis on soft skills and a focus on recruiting women to the sector.

The team found the port workforce is relatively young and male, with operational workers being 75 per cent male, while engineering workers were 89.47 per cent male. Workers aged 25 to 40 years represent half the number of operational workers, with a significant minority (12.5 per cent) between 15 and 24 years of age.

Young port workers had good technical competency, technology adaptability and IT skills, but there was a lack of soft skills including foreign language proficiency, time management, professionalism and work ethic, according to the researchers.

Findings suggest that while the technical knowledge and abilities of young workers generally meet basic requirements, there is continued need for improvement, alongside increased gender diversity and social inclusiveness.

The researchers believe the report's recommendations will be applicable to all major Indonesian ports, which face similar challenges and opportunities, and, if implemented, could help the port sector achieve higher performance and diversity within a decade.

Recommendations include:

  • Update education curricula with an emphasis on soft skills
  • Include multicultural awareness and ethical reasoning in the formulation of graduate outcomes
  • Open a special recruitment program for women and minority groups
  • Collaborate with university and training institutions to develop capacity-building programs for young people in the port industry

This report was prepared as part of the Partnership for Australia-Indonesia Research (PAIR) Young People and Skills program. PAIR is an initiative of the Australia-Indonesia Centre, supported by the Australian government and run in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology, the Indonesian Ministry of Transport, the provincial government of South Sulawesi and many organisations and individuals from communities and industry.

Read the report (PDF) >