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Vietnam's University Graduates Struggle to Find Jobs That Match Their Skills

University graduates in Vietnam have the highest rate of unemployment among young people, a fact that could seriously jeopardize the country’s growth.

A recent article in Bloomberg revealed that Vietnam’s universities are failing to prepare students for higher-level employment. “As wages rise and basic manufacturing leaves for less expensive countries, that may threaten the government’s ambition to attain middle-income status,” writes the news source. A middle-income country is defined as one with a per capita income of at least US$4,000. This is almost twice Vietnam's current figure.

“In university, we only received heavy theoretical training,” 25-year-old Nguyen Van Duc said to the news source. Though he graduated with an economics degree from one of the country’s top universities, he currently works for about US$250 a month as a xe ôm driver.

Nguyen Minh Thuyet from the Ministry of Education commented: “We need to overhaul their curricula to reduce training of impractical subjects. But the progress is still very slow. Not much has been done.”

It seems that, despite the country’s reported 97% literacy rate, there are few adequate higher education programs available. As a result, Vietnam has some of the worst productivity rates in the region, at 1/26th of Singapore's.

Forbes suggested that: “The lack of more skilled labor has become an increasingly obvious barrier to growth in value-added exports such as high-tech goods, which require advanced studies for mastery.” The article also pointed out that this lack of skilled labor is a deterrent for foreign companies looking to invest in high-tech manufacturing.

At present, it is common practice for educated Vietnamese to “job hop” for higher wages. “There is an increasing competition for labor, which leads to inflation of wages and high employee turnover,” said Oscar Mussons, senior associate with Dezan Shira & Associates in HCMC.

The soft skill gap needs to be closed in order for the country to meet its sustainable development goal of becoming a modern manufacturing economy. These desired skills include critical thinking, English language abilities and IT know-how. “It is becoming increasingly important for the country to be equipped with new technological innovations and an educated workforce with market-oriented skills,” said Nguyen Thi Quyen Phuong, director of Executive Search Services at Talentnet.

[Photo via Viec Lam Viec Lam]

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