Vietnam's vocational schools criticized for churning out unskilled youth

By Khanh An, Thanh Nien News

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Jobseekers at Tan Binh Vocational Center in Ho Chi Minh City on September 8, 2015. Photo: Khanh An Jobseekers at Tan Binh Vocational Center in Ho Chi Minh City on September 8, 2015. Photo: Khanh An


Vocational centers have been blamed for the lack of skilled workers in Vietnam and the rising unemployment rate among young people. 
“Many trainees have not been taught practical skills to get a good job. Even teachers at vocational schools face difficulties in learning new skills,” said Nguyen Hong Ha of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council, the city’s legislature.
“More seriously, some teachers have no practical experience in the field they are teaching. They only teach theories.”
Considered a major economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City has 48 vocational facilities teaching 18 skills.
However, the operations of these facilities have contributed very little to the training of a skilled workforce for the country, experts concurred.
Vo Xuan Tam, director of Tan Binh Vocational Center, said the city aims to have 70 percent of its workers classified as “skilled labor” by 2020.
“However, it would be difficult to reach this target as most centers do not have sufficient and modern equipment for training. We have been waiting for investment from the city,” he said.
Unskilled, unemployed
According to the General Statistics Office, the working age population in Vietnam is more than 53 million. 
Unemployment has increased from 2.2 percent in 2013 to 2.44 in the first half of this year, with a higher rate in urban areas.
According to the Institute of Labor Science and Social Affairs, the proportion of skilled workers in Vietnam has shown "little progress."
The International Labor Organization last year warned about low labor productivity in Vietnam, which was among the lowest in the Asia-Pacific region.
Productivity in Singapore was nearly 15 times the level in Vietnam, and Japan, 11 times higher. 
Even among its middle-income Southeast Asian neighbors, sizeable gaps also exist. For example, Vietnam’s productivity was one-fifth the level in Malaysia and two-fifths the level in Thailand, according to the report.
In a skill-need survey of over 200 enterprises in the tourism sector in central Vietnam, all employers confirmed that graduates from vocational schools do not meet the requirements, mainly due to weak industry participation in skills training, according to ILO.
New trends
Vo Thi Quy, a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Economics University, said that weak vocational training has created a surplus of workers with inadequate skills, while the shortage of skilled labor lingers. 
“Vietnam is in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Once it is signed, there will be new employment opportunities at new enterprises, especially in fast-moving consumer goods, information technology, processing industries, garment and agro-products.”
Quy also stressed on English and IT skills training.
“Online recruitment will offer new chances for small enterprises and young workers who are equipped with English and IT knowledge. For instance, recruitments for online marketing and social media marketing have been on the rise recently.”
Le Van Thanh of the Ho Chi Minh City Institute for Development Studies, said that vocational centers should improve their curriculum to match the real demands of the labor market. 
“Vocational centers have to work with local enterprises to train by demand and stop teaching outdated skills. That's the only way it should be done." 

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