Top firms strive to redress skilled worker shortage

January 14, 2015 | 09:10
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Amid the shortage of skills in the Vietnamese workforce, many foreign companies have invested in training courses in the Vietnamese education system to bring about improved workforce quality and productivity.

Vietnam must play catch-up with developed economies in productivity and training- Photo: Le Toan

Late last year, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) held a ceremony at the Electric Power University in Hanoi to mark the fourth year of the Japanese company providing instruction in nuclear engineering at this educational institution.

In August 2010, the university established a department specialising in nuclear power generation. This department’s remit is to produce engineers qualified to work at nuclear power plants to be introduced in Vietnam. Education entails hands-on learning in the operation and maintenance of nuclear power stations. From the outset, MHI has contributed to the development of the department’s basic educational framework, including co-operation in preparing course curricula.

MHI announced that the courses it provides at the university would enable Vietnamese students to master practical expertise directly from engineers with experience in such operations. In addition, MHI is also funding courses on nuclear engineering at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology.

The courses are being provided on the basis that MHI is expected to be the second foreign company to build a nuclear power station in Vietnam, as it has presented the ATMEA1 reactor technology to the Vietnamese government. And when the first nuclear engineering students graduate in 2015, MHI believes that the firm will play an active role in the nuclear-related field in Vietnam which is facing severe shortages of well-trained staff to run future nuclear power plants.

Since Vietnam opened its doors to foreign companies, the shortage of skilled workers has been a bottleneck issue. Although the transitions taking place in China – including rising labour costs and the shift towards an economic model that is less reliant on exports – are creating opportunities for Vietnam to capture a greater share of global manufacturing, foreign investors worry that the advantage of low labour costs is undermined by weak output per worker.

Vietnam’s General Statistics Office last month announced that the productivity of a Vietnamese worker is 18 times lower than a Singaporean.

“This productivity challenge, along with slow development of a skilled workforce, could threaten continued growth. One study has reported that curricula are outdated, teachers overstretched and underpaid, and graduates lack the job-ready skills sought by multinationals,” said Gaurav Gupta, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam.

But while the nation’s education system is slowly developing, the involvement of foreign companies, like MHI, are very supportive in tackling the issue of skills shortage in the workforce. Alongside MHI a number of other companies are investing in the up-skilling of Vietnamese workers.

Intel Products Vietnam, which currently operates Intel’s largest chipset manufacturing factory in Ho Chi Minh City, co-operated with the United States Agency for International Development and the Arizona State University’s Ira A in 2010 to found a higher engineering education alliance programme – better known by HEEAP.

HEEAP has attracted many other sponsors including Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training, Ho Chi Minh’s Hi-Tech Park, Siemens, Danaher, Cadence, National Instruments and Pearson with an aim of building ready-to-work students and providing high quality human resources with local training for hi-tech industries in Vietnam.

As recently as June 2014, 24 engineering lecturers from the five HEEAP Vietnamese partner universities travelled to the Arizona State University to take part in a HEEAP Faculty Development Training. The group spent six weeks learning about engineering curriculum design, student success, and active learning techniques. During their training, the cohort learned valuable lessons that will not only benefit their own classes, but also serve to transform education at their institutions.

Bosch Vietnam in 2013 also cooperated with LILAMA 2 Technical & Technology College in setting up an apprenticeship programme to provide Technical Industrial Apprenticeships that are in accordance with German vocational training standards. In this partnership programme, LILAMA 2 will impart theoretical knowledge to the apprentices, who will then undergo practical training at the Bosch automotive pushbelt manufacturing plant in the southern province of Dong Nai. Through the programme, Bosch aims to build up a highly skilled local technical workforce in Vietnam, especially in Dong Nai.

Vo Quang Hue, CEO of Bosch Vietnam, said human resources was the key factor in the business growth of Bosch in Vietnam. “Bosch can only maintain double-digit growth in economically difficult times and increase activities at the software centre in Ho Chi Minh City as well as expand the factory in Dong Nai’s Long Thanh when it has successfully dealt with challenge of workforce quality,” Hue said.

By By Ngoc Linh

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