Firms struggle to hire skilled professionals in Vietnam

Tue May 12, 2009 8:18pm EDT
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By John Ruwitch

HANOI (Reuters) - About a year ago, 2,000 of the best and brightest from five of Vietnam's top universities were invited to take a lengthy multiple-choice exam for a shot at a job at Intel Corp..

The giant computer chip maker had broken ground on its biggest factory ever in Vietnam's commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, and the $1 billion assembly and test facility, expected to start operations this year, needed good engineers.

It was more than just another big project. The Intel investment would put Vietnam on the global tech map and help a rising star in the manufacturing world move closer to its dream of advancing up the value chain.

But the results from Intel's test cast a spotlight on one of Vietnam's biggest barriers to achieving that dream: its inadequate and inflexible higher education system.

A fraction of the students passed the written exam, covering physics, electrical engineering, maths and other topics. They were given an English test and just 40 made the final cut.

Than Trong Phuc, Intel's country manager for Vietnam, said he was not surprised by the results.

"Is Vietnam a literate society with good people with fundamental skills? Yes," he said. "But do these people already have knowledge about chip-making in place? No. So we have to start from the ground."

Company spokesman Nick Jacobs said the test was not designed for hiring but rather to "evaluate the competencies" of students and to be a starting point for dialogue with the authorities.   Continued...

<p>A teacher holds an oyster while she demonstrates its composition at a class of a college in Hanoi May 7, 2009. REUTERS/Kham</p>