Vocational Training in Vietnam: Still Waiting for UNIDO


Vietnam has a unique network of basic vocational training centres that provide an opportunity for educationally disadvantaged young people to gain a useful skill and first work experience. As an International Technical Training Expert (ITTE), a keen interest was taken in these centres during service with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) from 1997 to 1999. Working with one outstanding centre in Ho Chi Minh City, the foundations were laid for a new training programme in computer-controlled machining, and in January 2015, it was possible to make a return visit to see how the work had progressed.

The vocational training centres are long established and probably a relic of the Soviet era in Vietnam’s history. As such, they were perceived to be out-of-date and in need of replacement by a more modern system. Many were clearly failing in their mission, poorly equipped and poorly patronised, but two centres in Ho Chi Minh City were found to be providing an excellent wide-ranging service under the leadership of able and dedicated directors.

The view was expressed that these centres of excellence should be used as models to encourage others to raise their level of performance. At the same time, these basic vocational training centres should be inspired to introduce more advanced programmes through links with higher technical institutions. In fact, there was a need to integrate the entire technical training system in a way that allowed the most able students to progress upwards through the system, while new technologies and training opportunities were transferred downwards to the grassroots.

It became possible to connect one of the best vocational training centres in Ho Chi Minh City to a higher-level technical institute supported by Germany. The German technical trainers were enthusiastic about this extension of their influence, and after some discussion it was decided to recommend the introduction of a computer-controlled machining programme at the vocational level. Two metal machining instructors were sent to the technical institute for training and suitable machines were ordered for the vocational training centre. The training had been completed, but the machines had not yet arrived, on departure in November 1999.

In January 2015, there was an opportunity to make a return visit to see how the project had fared. The centre still occupied the same two nearby sites although extensive rebuilding had been undertaken during the intervening fifteen years. Sadly, nobody was still at post who recognised the old man from UNIDO. The Dynamic Mr Nghi had been replaced by a lady director who extended a polite greeting and conducted a brief tour of the workshops.

The facilities looked much the same as in the previous century, but in response to a specific request, access was granted to the computer-controlled machine shop. The two machines were in place but looking somewhat neglected and under-utilised. The director complained that they were old and needed to be replaced by more modern machines. She was told that if she wanted to submit a new request to UNIDO for further assistance, a supporting document and recommendation could be provided.

Leave a Reply