Employers, educators lament Vietnamese students' poor soft skills

By Duong Tam   October 16, 2019 | 05:08 pm PT
Employers, educators lament Vietnamese students' poor soft skills
Students practice English with a foreign teacher (R) at a park in Ho Chi Minh City, December 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
Vietnamese recruiters and educators have expressed concern about the poor soft skills of students, saying it might prevent them from finding international jobs.

With modest English language proficiency and inability to write a formal letter or curriculum vitae, Vietnamese could never find a high-paying job or work abroad even if they graduate with a "very good" degree, Ta Hai Tung, head of the School of Information Technology and Communication at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST), said.

Tung cited an example to prove his point.

Two months ago his center had coordinated with U.S. tech firms like Facebook, Amazon and Apple for a program to choose graduate students for internship in Silicon Valley.

It chose its top 40 students for interviews, but only three could meet the requirements related to professional knowledge, soft skills and English skills.

Of the rest some were professionally good but bad at English or lacked soft skills, with some even failing to write a proper email or CV, Tung said.

"The lack of students' soft kills will prevent them from working in an international environment. But that was not completely their fault because the university should be the one that provides them with such skills."

Students in the U.S. have a choice of many soft skill courses that give lessons even teachers in Vietnam should learn, he said.

They equip students with leadership skills, teach them how to write a CV and letter, and even how to use tableware and dress, he said.

These skills might seem basic but are very important if students want to become global citizens "because these are signs by which an outsider can tell about their qualities and working styles."

Thuong, an alumnus of HUST who now runs an automation company in Hanoi, said staff training is one of the things that keeps his up at night.

He has even thought about joining hands with universities to set up an institute to train students so that they could become employable.

He recalled the time when he went to Japan to intern after graduating and was repeatedly told to change his working style.

"Back then, in the factory, I would move around really slowly and leave my stuff in a mess. That affected the impression the manager had of me."

Now, when he has a company of his own, he sees graduate students interning at his firm make the same mistakes.

He sees them strew personal belongings and office stationery all over the place and lack plans or specific targets at work and the skills to report, interact and communicate.

These skills are basic and should be in school curriculums, he said.

Schools should also tie up with companies and send students there periodically to take part in projects and learn on the job, he said.

Ta Son Tung, who made it to Forbes Vietnam's 30 Under 30 list in 2015, said his company has more than 1,100 employees and recruits dozens of engineers every month.

He said he is concerned about the attitude, job awareness and working style of fresh graduates.

It looks like no school trains students in soft skills but teachers could talk to students about how they should behave at the workplace, he said.

He also complained about students' English skills.

Hoang Minh Son, principle of HUST, said not all students could afford or have the time for extra English courses.

Organizing courses in school would be costly whereas hiking tuition fees is very difficult, he said.

Improving students' skills would need help from businesses, who should grant more scholarships and internships, he said.

"It would be game-changing because the quality of graduates will become different and businesses will benefit from such programs."

Over one million Vietnamese of working age are unemployed with 124,500 of them having bachelor's degrees or even higher, government data shows.

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