For Vietnam's hi-tech sector, skilled workers remain elusive

By VnExpress   November 19, 2016 | 12:22 am PT
For Vietnam's hi-tech sector, skilled workers remain elusive
High-tech companies in Vietnam are having a hard time recruiting skilled workers. Photo by Thai Nguyen newspaper
The labor shortage is an obstacle in Vietnam's ambition to move up the value chain and away from the traditional low-tech model.

Thousands of people attended a recent job fair at Saigon High-tech Park (SHTP), seeking opportunities to work for one of the companies here.

A total of 23 companies, out of around 100 tenants at SHTP, were trying to find the best candidates for their 1,000 vacancies. To their disappointment, many job seekers were not qualified and 300 positions remained unfilled.

“Recruitment has become very difficult and takes a long time,” said Henry Pham, human resources director of Nidec Vietnam, a fan manufacturer with over 3,000 employees.

Duong Minh Tam, deputy manager of SHTP, said the tech park, which has attracted around $5 billion of investment, now has 32,000 workers but a majority are low-skilled.

The number of workers with college degrees is very small, Tam said, adding that it's difficult for SHTP to reach its goal of producing more products with high added value.

Statistics show that high-tech products contributed 28.7 percent in Vietnam’s gross domestic product in 2013, up from 19.1 percent in 2012 and 11.7 percent in 2011. The target for 2020 is 45 percent.

“For high-tech parks, 35 to 45 percent of the workforce should have college-level or higher degrees,” said Tam. “Working in an industrial high-tech park requires a matching level of education.”

Yet, ironically enough, a report from Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor showed that many people with college degrees could not find jobs. It said as of the second quarter, 39 percent of 1.09 million unemployed people were well-educated professionals, half of them with college and post-graduate degrees.

Dr Le Van Hien, an expert in vocational training, said the problem lies in the unbalanced structure of the labor market and a disconnect between businesses and schools.

Hien said the pressure to earn a bachelor’s degree has been drawing young people away from occupational training, which leads to a severe shortage of skilled labor despite the large working-age population.

Vocational training has not been able to match the demand of businesses, he added.

SHTP aims to increase the ratio of its skilled workforce with vocational training or college education to at least 80 percent by 2020.

But experts said the target is not easy to achieve. Many companies now take training into their own hands, despite the risk of spending a lot of money and ending up losing the employees to other companies.

“I hired some people and offered to provide vocational training. However, some workers broke their promises of working for us for at least three years and just left," said Hong Nhung, a recruitment officer for a company in SHTP.

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