Making a Positive Change – IGTC at Sentul

My article published in Jakarta Expat Magazine

Sewing polo shirts in the factory

Cutting fabric for polo shirt production

Making final year project garments in the sewing class

Polo shirts for sale in the Show Room at IGTC

Driving through the winding narrow streets of a kampung close to Jalan Tol Jagorawi, it It is a little confusing trying to find our destination of the International Garment Training Centre in Sentul, Bogor.  As Johann Hoepflinger described, “if you think you are really lost trying to find it, you must be close already”.

Arriving at the guarded gate entrance the first thing you notice is the lush greenery.  It appears like an oasis off the rocky road with brightly coloured flowers and shady trees as Hans dreamt for it to resemble the lushness of his hometown in Austria.

Yayasan German Garment Training Centre is a non-profit, non-government organisation with strong social commitments and operates the International Garment Training Centre in Sentul, which began operation in 2002.  It’s founding member, Till Freyer, also from Austria, worked at IGTC salary free in order to support talented young Indonesians to have a brighter future.

With over 22 years experience in the education business, Johann Hoepflinger was initially employed to run IGTC as a Director and after 6 years, he took over GGTC and still runs the school, for the past year salary free in order to continue the selfless work of Till Freyer.  The main goal of IGTC is the successful job placement of the graduates and as of 2005, they have had a 100% success rate, with students securing employment before the completion of their selected courses, which commences immediately after graduation.

There is currently one paying class of students, but the remainder require sponsorship by individuals, NGO’s, organisations and the Government to enable them to have the opportunity to study as their families cannot afford to pay for further education.  IGTC currently has over 200 sponsors and co-ordination partners including Bank Mandiri and Achim Zieger, London, who not only provide sponsorship for education, but they also ensure that students are given three hot meals a day and the school relies on these sponsorships for its day to day running.  By sponsoring students, these companies demonstrate their CSR commitment to the community.

The majority of students, except for those enrolled in the the Entrepreneur programs,  come from Java as the current international garment businesses are located there, so students can be guaranteed employment close to home after graduation.  In the past, most garment industries were based in Bandung and Jakarta surroundings but now the majority of companies have moved throughout central Java from Semarang down to Jogja where there are many Chinese, Korean and Japanese investors.

Students choose to study at IGTC based not only on its good reputation, but also on recommendations from former graduates who are now successful in the business.  In 2008  IGTC held a ‘Train the Trainer’ program together with the Minister of National Education for teachers in the SMK which is government owned.  Previously garment industry education was focused towards boutique and tailor made businesses and not industrial production, so students would only get training and employment as sewing operators for the minimum wage so the Government agreed to make a training program for the teachers.

IGTC held the teacher training program for two months, with two teachers each from around 30 schools in Java attending and since then they have developed a very good network.  Teachers are now able to educate their students to realise that if they are committed, learn English and can pass the entry assessment, they have a good chance to get a scholarship in IGTC, with courses starting in January and July to fit in with the current academic year.  As a result of this system, IGTC receives applications from highly motivated and relatively qualified students, so they have a double pre-selection process.  The schools are selecting students in advance and IGTC then has the opportunity to select from those who are already committed and this is why their graduates have a very good reputation in terms of discipline and the fact that students are aware they may have only one chance to make a difference in their lives.

IGTC develops its students skills to become supervisors or managers after three to five successful years with in a company, where they can expect to earn more than 5 million rupiah per month and then move into Management positions with an average salary of up to 10 or 12 million.  So an education at IGTC is usually the only chance for the students to acquire further education to start a successful career in an international environment.

International garment companies require employees to be 16 years of age to start working, but in Indonesia the regulation is 18 years of age before they can start as a full timer, otherwise it is considered as child labour.  Therefore IGTC concentrates on higher qualifications and their current students range in age from 17 to 28 because they are very limited at the moment with 180 students so they are more focused towards future management training.  The current demand throughout the industry is huge and If they had the capability to educate 1000 students per year at the moment they could also easily place them.

In Indonesia, there is nobody educating in vocational direction on a high level whereas Switzerland and Germany have a very good system in vocational education in place.  After hundreds of years of experience they have very high quality standards and good reputations which is not happening here.  So instead of getting Post Graduates from Universities and educating them further, IGTC take SMU or SMK graduates and educate them and they’re much more committed.  Based on their past experience, 70-80% of Post Graduate applicants quit within the first 2 months at IGTC because it’s a tough business and they don’t want to work hard.  Graduates start their employment as assistants no matter what education they have but with the SMK graduates they will have commitment as they see it as their only chance for a better future.

The garment industry is a seasonal business and a tough business, where the industry is preferring to have girls as they’re more committed and more reliable.  The male students at IGTC are usually enrolled in the Entrepeneur courses, as they are coming from families who, for example, have small batik businesses.  They are producing batik fabrics but they have very low income so the Indonesian Eximbank Bank decided if the youngsters are motivated and willing, they will pay for their education.  This would enable them to transform their parents fabrics into high quality garments, especially in Bali, so are able to sell to tourists, but also focus on the opportunity to export to Singapore and Malaysia, as they are the closest markets.

Situated in a beautiful natural setting on one hectare of land, IGTC has implemented a clean and environmentally friendly space for students to learn in and have enforced a policy of no plastic bags or water bottles on site.  Every student is to have a refillable bottle and water stations are located all throughout the centre, which means there is no rubbish littered throughout the campus.  They are very strict about cleanliness also in the student lodgings as they want their students to be known for their professionalism, responsibility and tidy work practices.

The school also enforces the students to speak in English only during class hours from 7.15am to 4.30am Monday to Friday, to prepare them for working in international companies, where communicating in English is mandatory.  As well as having English classes, the students have the opportunity to use the language lab for self study with audio lessons if they wish.

Hanaka, who has been studying at IGTC for 9 months, enrolled in the Export Marketing, Merchandising and Quality Control Course (MMQ) as she has a keen interest to work in a garment factory and the main reason she chose to study at IGTC is for the opportunity to learn English, and she is already fluent in both oral and written communication after such a short period of time.

To join IGTC’s Corporate Membership program, the fee is a monthly membership of US$1.500 which will provide an education and accommodation free of charge to students in need, provided they pass the assessment test, and the number of students is limited to five per annum.  Membership will also allow companies to have a first choice of graduates starting 8 weeks before the end of the program within a period of 4 weeks, as well as numerous other benefits.

If you are interested in changing the life of a young Indonesian through sponsorship or offering your services, I highly recommend a visit to IGTC, or contacting the Centre for further information, and you can be assured your compassion will make a positive difference in the life of someone who dreams for a brighter future.