Digital technology opening up equal opportunities

November 12, 2021 | 10:57
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People are always in need of new skills in order to adapt and adjust to more advanced work methods. Dr. Truong Anh Dung, general director of the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, explained VIR’s Hoang Oanh how digital technology can help Vietnamese workers.

How will Industry 4.0 and changes in tech, automation, and digitalisation affect the Vietnamese labour force in the next 10-15 years?

Dr. Truong Anh Dung, general director of the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training under the Ministry of Labour
Dr. Truong Anh Dung, general director of the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training under the Ministry of Labour

Industry 4.0 and the ongoing pandemic have created a double disruption for the labour market, which also places new requirements on labour skills.

On a global scale, the rate of remote working is increasing. According to many research results, 50 per cent of current jobs will be replaced by machines in the near future and in about 10-15 years’ time, this ratio could be even greater.

By 2035, it is expected that one-third of current jobs will require new skills due to impacts from AI, robotics, and IT. The growing gap between present and future skills could cost about $5 trillion, or 6 per cent of global GDP.

Vietnam is no exception as it is in the process of deep integration. More specifically, we have a developing economy in which most of the enterprises are small or medium-sized. The size of the informal labour market is very large, so the above trends will certainly have a strong impact.

If Vietnam does not focus on improving the skills of workers, not only low-level unskilled workers but also mid-skilled workers will also be severely affected.

What initiatives does Vietnam have to support the workforce to improve professional skills and foster new ones?

Vietnam has had programmes and policies on skills training for quite a while. In 2017, the Prime Minister issued a directive on preparing capacity corresponding to Industry 4.0. Continuously since then, many policies and resolutions to improve the capacity of employees have been implemented.

In February, the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training (DVET) also advised the Prime Minister on a number of important policies, such as the programme to support the labour market for the rest of the decade.

By August, the government had approved a training and retraining programme to prepare human resources and skills to adapt to the 4.0 era, along with a digital transformation initiative in education, training, and employment.

This is a series of actions aimed at improving vocational skills and creating better opportunities for workers, especially in the context of the recent economic recovery.

The most important effect is to contribute to changing the habits and perceptions of workers, who are the key subjects in the process of production and service in the economy.

We are also connecting and taking advantages of the support of stakeholders such as businesses and employers to prepare a training budget. The three national target programmes promulgated are all dedicated to training.

Specifically, the national target programme on mountainous areas is very interested in ethnic minorities, while the scheme on hunger eradication and poverty reduction gives priority to the poor or near-poor.

National activities on new rural construction has also centralised resources on rural subjects.

In addition to the official labour areas working in factories, enterprises, and agencies, we are also interested in the future workforce such as students.

In order for vocational and skills training for workers to be highly effective, what factors should Vietnam pay attention to?

We believe three things need to be solved urgently. The first factor is to understand the market requirements and review carefully the skills needed for the future.

In addition, we need to immediately update new skills through ASEAN standards and on a global level. There are 50-60 skills integrated into Industry 4.0 that the DVET will have to update into next year.

The third is to improve digital skills for learners and teachers. At the recent G20 forum, when it comes to the development of the digital economy, ministers of the participating countries reaffirmed that besides mechanisms and policies to promote the digital economy, it is very important to quickly promote digital skills for employees.

How should current policies and cooperation mechanisms be adjusted so that the state can truly be the conductor in multilateral coordination, helping workers enter Industry 4.0 confidently and equally?

In addition to coordination from businesses, associations, unions, social organisations, and workers, I think the first important step is the institution. The new Labour Code, which came into effect early this year, has a chapter on developing vocational training and skills to prepare the workforce. It clearly states the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved, especially offers in-company training, a form of training we are looking to replicate.

This is also the first time we have clearly defined the form of training by apprenticeship – that is, enterprises recruiting workers and training according to their needs, or cooperating with schools to organise training themselves.

A second problem is that the size of the workforce affected by the 4.0 era is now very large. We need to open massive online training courses on basic skills such as digital skills, soft skills, and foreign languages.

Thirdly, in order to attract businesses to participate in this process, guidance documents for the training process and coordination with other parties need to be issued soon. We are planning to build separate apps for businesses, training institutions, and state management agencies to implement.

By Hoang Oanh

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