Vietnamese students strive for more advanced skills and decent work in the context of Industry 4.0

In the era of automation and digitization, qualification and training requirements for workers are undergoing drastic changes. Candidates, especially young people, are expected to meet different requirements from employers. In return, only decent work can attract and keep a high-quality workforce.

The world has been entering a new era of Industry 4.0. In this context, youth plays an important role and can be seen as the core force in the labour market. Compared to other countries, Vietnam has the advantage of a young and abundant workforce, which is, however, mainly low-skilled and therefore quite cheap. One reason that contributes to this unpleasant fact is the training structure, which leads to the imbalance of supply and demand in the labour market. This soon has to be changed, if Vietnam is to respond in time to the changing world of work and to pro-actively equip its labour force, specifically the younger generation, with advanced skills and qualifications that fully meet the new professional standards. By then, the Vietnamese labour force can only be approached by decent work which refers to promoting jobs, guaranteeing fundamental rights at work and extending social protection according to the norms of the International Labour Organization, and Vietnam’s National Target Programme on Employment.

Acknowledging the importance of decent work for the future of work, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Vietnam Office in cooperation with the Faculty of Law under the Vietnam Women’s Academy (VWA) has initiated a new project entitled Youth Sustainability Forum: Decent work in the context of Industry 4.0.

The final round of the Forum, which was held along with the Job Fair 2022 on 12 October 2022 in Hanoi, attracted hundreds of students from various universities, eager to learn more about decent, sustainable, and stable jobs in the era of digitization and automation.

“In the past years, Hanoi People’s Committee and Hanoi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs have passed quite a number of policies and relevant guidelines to support workers, especially young graduates in job opportunities,” shared Vu Quang Thanh, deputy director of Hanoi Center of Employment Service. “This forum and job fair 2022 is a great initiative to awaken young people’s interest and potentials in improving their skills as a response to the changing world of work. In the immediate future, it is necessary to develop foreign language skills, soft skills, and discipline in labour.”

Beside numerous inputs and insights from Vietnamese experts and representatives of enterprises and universities on vocational training, job opportunities and decent work, the final round of the Youth Sustainability Forum: Decent work in the context of Industry 4.0 was marked with the competition of four excellent groups from Hanoi Procuratorate University and VWA:

  • Group 1: Improving competitiveness for Vietnamese students in the labour market to attain sustainable development goals
  • Group 2: Ensuring wellbeing society for informal workers in Vietnam today
  • Group 3 & Group 4: The role of students in environmental protection for the sake of sustainable development.

Different from other groups, the winner team of Vuong Tieu Vi and Nguyen Viet Hoang focused in their presentation on the fact that Vietnamese labour still lacks proactiveness and creativity at the workplace, and suggested certain solutions to help young students improve their working skills and manners to meet the requirements of the 4th industrial revolution. The presentation was well received by the audience and raised an important issue for in-depth discussion among participants.

Through the forum, young participants and specifically all the student groups could show their interest, self-determination and profound understanding with regard to decent work, improving labour quality and stabilizing jobs in the changing context. The awards were deservedly given to the students who actively engaged in the whole project from the very first round until the end of the Youth Forum, including seminars, excursion, talks and academic exchanges, which were organized in Hanoi and Ninh Binh between June and October 2022.

An interesting journey to change the mindset and achieve the rewards

Due to a huge number of applications, a multiple-choice contest in form of an online quiz took place to select the most appropriate candidates who showed their interest in the topic by completing 35 questions on decent work with the most correct answers and earliest participation. As a result, 30 students out of 258 applicants were granted the opportunity to attend the seminar of the first round.

The seminar introduced the project activities with valuable insights into the topic given by leading experts in the fields of human resources, legal affairs and technology. At the event, the students were provided with basic knowledge regarding automation and digitization of the world of work, basic concepts of decent work and the current situation of the labour market in Vietnam, from the experts’ perspectives.

In the second round of the Forum, the 30 outstanding students had the chance to visit a typical sustainable business model in Ninh Binh, namely the Sinh Duoc Cooperative, and received a training seminar on how to improve their job application skills according to current and future requirements.

The Sinh Duoc Cooperative in Ninh Binh is a typical nationwide cooperative model, awarded with a certificate of merit by the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc. It operates in the field of manufacturing convenient medicinal products, such as lemongrass essential oil, basil, foot bath salts, herbal soaps, and handicrafts. The Cooperative is moving towards a green business model, as it was established to create jobs for local workforce, especially female workers who are familiar with traditional herbs and willing to preserve and develop the local medicinal profession.

“The cooperative is a good choice for senior workers who cannot meet the strict demands of enterprises in the surrounding industry zone,” said Hoang Thi Thao, one of the first female employees at the cooperative. “Instead of accepting unstable and low-paid jobs in informal sectors, becoming a cooperative member gives us more benefits, for instance, social insurance, maternity leave and childcare policy and additional skills trainings.”

During the one-day excursion, the students raised a lot of questions and also their concerns to learn more about the start-up experience of a young founder and the cooperative business model, specifically gender aspects in recruitment, as well as how to protect the environment in production and overcome extraordinary challenges such as COVID-19. After the visit to Ninh Binh, participants were asked to choose their topics of interest regarding decent work in the context of automation and digitization–known as Industry 4.0–to join the subsequent writing contest.

An additional event within the second round of the forum was a training session on how to improve job application skills. In this training, the organizing committee introduced Nguyen Thai Ha, one of the leading human-resource experts in Hanoi. Besides her position as recruitment director at John Academy, Thai Ha is also a key opinion leader, or influencer on social platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, with 50 million views regarding human resource and recruitment topics. Through this training session, students coming from different universities had a significant opportunity to exchange valuable experiences about the process of searching and applying for the job they want, as well as relevant skills needed for potential candidates: These are, among others, communication and problem-solving skills, time management, flexibility and teamwork skills.

After the second round, the 10 best articles from the student group were selected and published in the proceedings of the student scientific conference of the Faculty of Law, VWA. The four best articles were selected to present at the final round of the Youth Forum.

Nguyen Thu An, a fresh graduate from the Faculty of Law, VWA said: “Participating in the activity has helped me get an overview of the labour market, including my field of study. Thereby, I can better understand employers’ needs and learn how to develop appropriate skills to meet the new requirements and strive for a decent job in the near future.”

The Youth Forum with the meaningful title "Decent Work in the Context of the Industry 4.0" can be considered a success that marked a closer and promising cooperation between FES Vietnam and the VWA towards a sustainable development. Duong Kim Anh, VWA's deputy director, noted at the final round of the Forum: “This is the first collaboration between the parties to enhance the opportunity to learn the relevance of vocational skills in order to access decent work. At the same time, the project has built a bridge among universities, students and employers in employment promotion activities and encourage students’ participation in the process of making sustainable employment policies.”

Tran Hong Hanh  has been working with FES Vietnam since 2009, where she is a programme coordinator and leads the programs on rule of law, gender and youth.

Trinh Thi Hoang Anh is a lecturer and expert in the field of labour and social security at Vietnam Women’s Academy. Hoang Anh has nearly 10 years of experience in consulting activities with legislative agencies, conducting research on Labour and Social Security Code. She is a member of the organizing team of the student forum on decent work in the context of Industry 4.0 and connects many young people in the forum to promote the youth’s role in participating in policy criticism, and to improve their soft skills to meet the labour market’s demands.

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