As reported recently in the ICEF Monitor, based on local and international news sources, there is growing demand for vocational education and training in Viet Nam, driven by a rising unemployment and, I would add, underemployment, rate among university graduates, and the technical needs of the economy. This shift represents a sea change in perceptions based on changing economic realities. Traditionally, “colleges”, which provide this type of training, are viewed as lower status and prestige.
Some of the challenges facing the government are capacity, quality and the need for retraining. Only 15% of working-age Vietnamese have completed formal vocational training. The overly ambitious official target is for 55% of all workers to have “skills training” and one-third to have “advanced vocational training” by 2020. (Anecdotally, this lack of formal training is painfully apparent in the quality of work of many young Vietnamese working as electricians, plumbers, cabinet makers, etc. There are many gaps in their “on-the-job” training.)
Here are some of the “money paragraphs” from the article:
But to get there, Vietnam has had to undertake – and will need to extend – some substantive reforms in its vocational training system. A national strategy (one-page PDF entitled Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Vietnam) calls for a restructuring of technical and vocational training institutions and the system by which they are administered. It aims as well to boost quality controls, strengthen curricula, and expand international collaboration.
In terms of international partners, the Asian Development Bank, and other international development agencies, have contributed to recent reform projects and capacity building initiatives. And there are a number of significant collaborations between Vietnamese ministries and institutions and those overseas, including with partners in Canada, Australia, and the UK.
The challenges facing the Vietnamese system are considerable, but there are some large forces at work here too in terms of a government commitment to expand and improve vocational training, a growing range of international partnerships, and especially the pressing skills requirements of employers in a rapidly growing and evolving economy.
The bottom line is that the Vietnamese economy needs skills: English skills, IT skills, and targeted training for a wide range of occupations and industries. The patterns we now seeing playing out in Vietnam indicate that students are now going to access skills training through a variety of new models and new collaborations and, increasingly, outside of a university campus.
My hope is that US community colleges, which have a lot to offer in this area, can make a modest contribution to this in country effort.
This will not affect recent positive overseas study trends because it’s an entirely different target group, i.e., parents do not send their sons and daughters overseas to study in vocational fields. That’s a point I recently made to a colleague from a technical institute who wanted to join Capstone Vietnam’s fall StudyUSA Higher Education Fairs.