Grads struggle for jobs in finance, banking sectors

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  Employees of a bank in Hanoi unload bags containing bricks of dong bank notes sent in from the central bank. Photo: AFP

Nguyen Thu Ha's heart sank yet again.

The 22-year-old graduate of the Banking Academy, also proficient in English, had just completed scanning newspapers for vacancies at an employment agency in Hanoi's Cau Giay District last week, and failed to find a suitable job.

It had been a year since she graduated.

Ha used to work for a real estate firm. However, she lost the job after working there for just three months when the firm shut down, unable to survive the frozen property market.

Since then, Ha has sought help from her relatives and friends to find gainful employment even as she scoured papers and the Internet. So far, she has failed.

"It is very difficult to find a job in the financial and banking sector. I have sent my CV to dozens of companies for over a year, but have not got any results," she said. "I dare not hope for a job in a bank as I used to. I would be happy even if I could work as a shop assistant or cashier."

Ha is one of many people finding it hard to get jobs in the banking and financial sector amidst the economic slowdown.

She said over half of her university classmates are either jobless or have taken work not in line with their academic qualification.

Experts attribute the students' plight to an oversupply of economic university graduates.

Universities specializing in finance and banking had become very attractive to students a few years ago as the sector offered many job opportunities with high salaries for graduates. Many commercial banks were expanding their networks to serve the increasing demand for capital as the local stock and financial markets expanded rapidly between 2005 and 2007.

"At that time, the commercial banks' demand for staff was very large. Many of them announced recruitments every quarter, or even every month," said an industry insider.

As of late 2010, the banking sector had over 175,200 employees, 2.59 times the 2000 figure, said Tran Huu Thang, deputy head of the staff management department under the State Bank of Vietnam.

To meet the increasing demand, many universities and colleges opened economic, financial and banking departments. At present, 248 out of 416 universities and colleges nationwide offer economic, financial, banking, accounting and business management training, according to the University Education Department under the Ministry of Education and Training.

Vu Van Hoa, vice president of the Hanoi Business and Technology University, said: "It would be very difficult for students specializing in financial and banking sectors to find jobs in the next one or two years, unless we review our training plans."

Furthermore, despite a large supply of students majoring in economics, very few are qualified enough to meet the requirements of employers.

Luu Trung Thai, former deputy general director of the Military Bank, said: "Many newly-graduated students do not have necessary skills and knowledge to work at banks."

He said universities should review their curricula and help students quickly meet requirements of firms when seeking jobs.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Manpower, Banking and Finance and management consulting firm HayGroup, the number of university graduates in Vietnam who major in economics, banking and finance is estimated to be some 32,000 in 2013, but only 20,000 will be able to find work in financial agencies or banks.

The job shortage is also due to the fact that commercial banks are experiencing slower growth and undergoing a restructuring process, leading to smaller demand for manpower.

According to Vietnamworks, the largest online recruitment solution provider in the country, the accounting and financial sector has seen lower online recruitment demand over the last two years. It used to be among the top sectors with the highest demand for online recruitment between 2006 and 2007.

Thai said banks now are reducing their spending as they restructure to improve operational efficiency. Cutting the staff is one of the measures to lower costs.

Last week, an anonymous email was sent to the general director of the commercial bank SeABank and a local newspaper, accusing the bank of cutting workers en masse and forcing them to resign "voluntarily," to avoid compensating them for terminating labor contracts prior to their expiry, according to local newswire VnExpress.

The author of the email said the bank's human resources department has claimed the bank is in a bad financial situation and restructuring its business, so it has cut staff.

SeABank has said it has not fired workers, but that some have resigned for personal reasons.

Room for hope

A lecturer at an economics institute provided a more optimistic view for the students.

He said students who specialize in banking and finance will still have many job opportunities in the future. They might not necessarily work in banks or financial institutions, but could find work in insurance, which is one of the faster developing sectors with a large manpower demand in Vietnam, he said.

In the first period of restructuring, banks may downsize staff, causing some difficulties for job seekers. However, banks can still recover and develop in the next one or two years after the restructuring, raising their manpower demand, he said.

"Thus, difficulties for finance and banking university graduates are temporary. They will still have great opportunities after the economy recovers and the banking sector rebounds in the next few years," he said.

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