Can Western schools help with Vietnam’s HR problems?

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April 24 – Some of Vietnam’s hottest sectors – banking, finance, and hi-tech, are struggling to find enough talent capable to keep up with the economy’s runaway growth.

Banks increase their capital, network, and number of branches at every opportunity. One mid-size bank wants to increase its staff of 3500 by more than 50 percent this year. A spate of new securities firms seeking to capitalize on recent stock regulations have sent demand for skilled financiers soaring. And Ho Chi Minh City’s Hi-Tech park needs more than 14,000 new workers by 2009.

Despite increased salaries and attractive bonuses, the industry is still facing HR shortages, for the simple reason that there just aren’t enough Vietnamese with the right skills.

Enter the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology. Offering a diploma in business ad, SIAST and a host of other western schools are bringing much-needed educational services to Vietnam at a critical juncture. Unsurprisingly, however, they face a significant barrier to entry in the form of language and cultural differences.

“The offices don’t cooperate with each other, making my job harder because I can’t get things done. The heads of the Foreign Languages and International Cooperation faculties hate each other…Maybe that’s my biggest problem,” laments Miles Fahlman, SIAST’s chief representative in Vietnam. “Inter-office politics is crazy in Vietnam and holds everyone back. It prevents development.”

There is hope for eventual progress along the cultural adaptation curve, nonetheless. Dr. Joel Broustail, Co-Director of the French-Vietnamese Center for Management Education, has a much rosier take on foreign education in Vietnam. That may have to do with the fact that he’s been there since 1992.

“Education is like a product; therefore, quality and marketing decide the success of the investment,” he says. Given demand, marketing may not be so tough. But quality education implemented in a relatively short timeframe is crucial to Vietnam’s capitalizing on its growth.