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Why Southeast Asia is the top destination for engineering talent

Industry Resources & Trends
CXC Global7 min read
CXC GlobalMay 20, 2024
CXC Global

Introduction to Southeast Asia’s engineering ecosystem

If you’re wondering where to find engineering talent, look to Southeast Asia—a region quickly becoming a key player for engineering skills across various fields. This area isn’t just growing; it’s making a mark in critical areas like renewable energy, civil engineering, and computer technology. Countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia bring something unique, making the region attractive for global engineering projects.

What makes Southeast Asia stand out is its focus on education and innovation. Governments here are putting money into STEM education, ensuring plenty of skilled engineers are ready to face today’s challenges. At the same time, many new companies are starting up, offering engineers great chances to use what they know and grow in their careers.

Unpacking the appeal: why companies look to Southeast Asia for engineers

Companies worldwide are turning to Southeast Asia for engineering talent for several key reasons. Let’s examine some of them. 

Educational foundations

​​Southeast Asia is not only enriched by its prestigious engineering schools and universities but also by its specialized educational systems that address the evolving demands of the engineering sector. These institutions play a role in developing a skilled workforce equipped to handle both current and future engineering challenges:

  • Vietnam: Vietnamese engineering programs focus on practical applications and hands-on experience, ensuring students receive education closely aligned with industry needs. Robust partnerships with leading tech companies support this practical approach.
  • Philippines:Engineering education is supported by the K to 12 Program which emphasizes the STEM track in senior high school, preparing students for tertiary education. The Commission on Higher Education mandates an outcomes-based education system at the university level, focusing on global standards and practical skills. This approach aims to produce globally competitive engineers.
  • Malaysia:Malaysia’s education system emphasizes technological proficiency, integrating advanced technologies and industry-relevant software into academic programs. This commitment prepares graduates for the modern engineering landscape by bridging the gap between information and skills.
  • Thailand:Thai institutions, such as King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, are heavily focused on innovation. They collaborate closely with governmental initiatives in research and development and engage students in national and international competitions, fostering a culture of innovation and problem-solving.
  • Indonesia:Universities provide high-quality engineering education, focusing on offering a variety of engineering programs to suit different interests and career goals. The Indonesian Accreditation Board for Engineering Education (IABEE) ensures these programs meet high standards by regularly checking and accrediting them. This educational approach, coupled with a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on learning, prepares graduates well for careers in various engineering fields.

Government and industry support

Southeast Asian governments are implementing policies and initiatives that create a conducive environment for engineering talent to thrive.:

  • Malaysia, for example, has the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, which prioritizes the development of a skilled workforce in areas like electrical and electronics, chemicals, and machinery. The government is also establishing research centers and funding R&D in engineering fields.
  • The Indonesian government has launched the “Making Indonesia 4.0” initiative, which aims to transform the country into a global manufacturing hub by investing in infrastructure, developing human capital, and attracting foreign investment in key sectors like automotive, electronics, and chemicals. 

Cost-effectiveness and quality of talent

Compared to other regions like North America or Europe, the cost of living and wages in countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia are significantly lower. This means companies can access top-notch engineering talent at a fraction of the cost they would incur elsewhere.

But cost savings alone wouldn’t mean much if the quality of talent wasn’t up to par. Fortunately, that’s not the case in Southeast Asia. Engineers from this region are known for their strong technical skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. They can deliver innovative solutions that rival those from more developed countries.

A closer look at engineering talent in Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia


Vietnam’s booming tech industry, fueled by the expansion of multinational electronics companies like Samsung, Apple, LG, and Intel, has created many opportunities for computer and electronic engineers. These giants have relocated significant parts of their supply chains and production to Vietnam, driving the growth of the country’s electronics exports. This has led to a high demand for skilled engineering talent, particularly in computer engineering, electrical engineering, and electronics fields.

Although foreign-invested enterprises currently dominate Vietnam’s electronics exports, there is significant potential for Vietnamese engineering firms and startups to develop their own electronics and semiconductor capabilities and integrate them into global supply chains. 

The government is supporting initiatives to enhance the technological capabilities and competitiveness of local enterprises in the electronics sector. As Vietnam continues to establish itself as a key player in the global tech industry, the demand for skilled engineers is expected to grow further, making the country an increasingly attractive destination for engineering talent.

The Philippines

The Philippines boasts a large pool of skilled engineering talent, with around 200,000 young Filipinos enrolling in various engineering programs annually and 40,000 graduating each year. Filipino civil engineers are generally considered globally competitive, with a reputation for being hardworking and skilled. The civil engineering curriculum in the Philippines covers a range of specializations, including construction management, structural, transportation, water resources, and geotechnical engineering, providing a robust educational foundation for aspiring engineers.

The government recognizes the importance of the engineering profession and has implemented programs and policies to support the development of engineering talent in the country. Efforts are being made to bridge the gap between theory and practice and enhance local engineering firms’ technological capabilities and competitiveness. 

Additionally, the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Civil Engineering has an Environmental and Energy Engineering Group focusing on water and energy management, waste management, and sustainable infrastructure, presenting opportunities for Filipino engineers to contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection.


Malaysia has been making significant strides in renewable energy engineering, positioning itself as a leader in this growing industry. The government’s commitment to renewable energy development is evident in its ambitious targets, aiming to generate at least 20% of its energy needs from renewables by 2025, as well as policies like the Five-Fuel Diversification Policy, which includes renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. The Malaysian government expects the renewable energy sector to create 14,000 job opportunities and attract new investments, particularly in semiconductor manufacturing and development, which are crucial components in renewable energy harvesting equipment.

Malaysia is home to top renewable energy companies like JA SOLAR Technology Co., Solarvest Holdings Berhad, and TNB Engineering Corporation Sdn. Bhd., all of which play a significant role in the country’s renewable energy market. These companies contribute to Malaysia’s renewable energy sector growth and technological advancements, further solidifying the country’s position as a leader in renewable energy engineering.


Thailand has established itself as a global automotive production hub, with major automakers like Toyota, Honda, Isuzu, and Mitsubishi having significant manufacturing and R&D operations in the country. The automotive industry contributes 12% to Thailand’s GDP and employs over 700,000 workers, showcasing its importance to the nation’s economy. The country strongly focuses on developing a skilled workforce for the automotive industry, with 29 universities and institutes offering automotive and mechanical engineering programs and the government and major automakers supporting initiatives to enhance the technical skills of the workforce.

Thailand has also become a hub for automotive R&D, with many global automakers establishing regional R&D and training centers to serve the Southeast Asian and Asia-Pacific markets. Institutions like King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) have established specialized centers for multidisciplinary research and collaboration on next-generation automotive technologies.


Indonesia’s infrastructure demands are on the rise as the country’s economy continues to grow. This presents opportunities for new research and development in next-generation construction materials, such as Steel Fibre Reinforced Concrete (SFRC) and Ultra-High-Performance Concrete (UHPC). These advanced materials can benefit Indonesia’s infrastructure projects, including bridges, flyovers, and high-rise buildings. Australian engineering expertise and research can support Indonesia’s infrastructure planning and development, fostering international collaboration.

As Indonesia’s population grows and urbanization increases, civil and environmental engineers are in high demand to meet the country’s aging infrastructure needs, including crumbling roads and bridges, inadequate transportation systems, and vulnerable dams and ports. Civil engineers will play a crucial role in designing and building the necessary infrastructure, such as water, electricity, sewer, and transportation systems, to support the growing population and urban density, while also addressing challenges related to water quality, air pollution, and waste management in Indonesia’s growing cities.

Conclusion: Harnessing Southeast Asia’s engineering potential

With its unique blend of cultural diversity, technological advancements, and economic growth, Southeast Asia stands out as a top choice for businesses and investors looking to engage with skilled professionals. Investing in the region’s engineering potential provides access to a highly skilled workforce and helps build a vibrant and sustainable engineering ecosystem that will drive progress for years to come.

To fully realize the region’s potential, international collaboration and investment in education and professional engineering sectors must be encouraged. By partnering with CXC, global players can access the region’s huge pool of engineering talent while contributing to developing cutting-edge solutions and technologies. Reach out to us today!

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