The Jakarta Post
Journalist and entrepreneur Agustinus Edy Kristianto has slammed the government’s flagship preemployment card skill training program for missing the target and serving only as a business gimmick as he tried the program in late April.
Edy managed to sign up for cash assistance despite the program objective having shifted from upgrading worker skills and reducing unemployment to supporting laid-off and furloughed workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the founder and CEO of online news portal Gressnew, he does not meet the criteria.
“The system accepted a shareholder like me. I indicated that I was an entrepreneur. I’m not someone who has lost their job nor a small entrepreneur who has lost customers,” Edy wrote as his Facebook status on Thursday.
He went on to share how the program worked by buying courses.
“The cash went directly to the account of the online platform, mine was Skill Academy by education startup Ruangguru,” he told The Jakarta Post as he also showed the invoice via text message.
The program involves as many as 223 training institutions, providing more than 2,000 courses through eight online platforms including Skill Academy, Tokopedia, Bukalapak and Sisnaker.
He added that he received an email notification suggesting that he buy another course on Skill Academy to get Rp 100,000 (US$6.70) worth of benefits and a free subscription to Ruangguru.
The government has allocated Rp 20 trillion to cover around 5.6 million people in the program. Eligible participants will each receive Rp 1 million to cover online training costs, Rp 2.4 million in incentives for four months that will only be disbursed if a participant has completed a course and Rp 150,000 if they have completed a survey.
Many have criticized the government for allocating budgetary funds to online training courses, which experts have slammed as being similar to those available for free on the internet, while the COVID-19 crisis is hitting people hard.
Furthermore, Edy said the program let him obtain a certificate without completing the materials first.
As he took a journalism course, he also questioned how the certificate on a course titled “writing news like an expert journalist” was not given by a journalism institution accountable for conducting competency tests. The certificate is only signed by the Skill Academy CEO.
There are 27 institutions verified by the Press Council to conduct journalism competency tests, the Alliance of Independent Journalist's (AJI) head of education, ethics and profession, Dandy Koswara, said.
“Certificates that are issued by institutions other than those appointed by the Press Council do not reflect the competence of the holder in journalism,” he said.
The director of communication, partnership and ecosystem development for the preemployment card program, Panji Ruky, brushed off complaints that the certificate was not meant as a certification of a profession but only as evidence that the participant had completed the course.
Panji admitted that the management did not determine a specified standard for courses but they ensured the online trainers had a curriculum and all the infrastructure needed.
“We leave the curriculum to the course providers. We give the consumers cash assistance and many options so they have a wide variety of courses to choose from. Let the market put the spotlight on the good quality providers,” Panji told the Post.
Skill Academy claimed it had developed its courses with experts in the respective fields, Ruangguru spokesperson Sekar Krisnauli said in a written statement.
She also explained that the platform issued two kinds of certificates, one for passing the exam above the passing grade and the other for completing the course material. Therefore, a participant could get a certificate for passing an exam without completing the material first, as in Edy’s case.
As for Edy’s successful enrollment in the program despite him being an entrepreneur, Panji said the program was open to anyone aged 18 years or above who is currently not attending university, including entrepreneurs.
He further mentioned there were two categories of applicants. The first group comprises those whom the government has recorded as COVID-19 affected workers, and who are the management’s priority. He claimed the majority of applicants were in the first group, without specifying the number.
The second group, he added, were members of the public yet to be identified. Panji said applicants must declare that they have either been laid-off or economically affected by indicating if they are currently experiencing a lower income or fewer customers.
Edy, however, denied there was such a process during registration.
“Yes, I said I was an entrepreneur who has been affected by COVID-19 because it’s true. However, I’m not severely affected and there’s no further question asking the details of how I am affected,” Edy said.