Jul 04, 2019 / 16:11

What challenge foreign-trained Vietnamese when returning to home country?

The Hanoitimes - Challenges remain considerable in the local labor market for Vietnamese graduates after they finish overseas study.

Many Vietnamese people find it hard to work and behave in their home country after years of studying abroad. What are the challenges after returning to their home land?
Illustrative photo
Illustrative photo
At first glance, the benefits of going from a developing nation to a developed one is clear, including better-ranked universities, a (usually) Western-style, inquisition-based learning, intercultural experience, self-discovery, and chance to practice English.

However, many returning graduates fail in Vietnam’s current labor market in the face of the strong economic transition, according to Sydney educational sociologist Lien Pham.

Job choice: most returning graduates sought prestigious jobs in multinational corporations, which tended to value overseas-trained people’s English fluency, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking skills.

But many operations in Vietnam tend to be in manufacturing, supply chain and distribution. Thus, foreign graduates have to take on managerial role in non-technical areas like quality control in a manufacturing company, or head of sales which do not allow them to apply their technical skills and knowledge gained from overseas, the SI News quoted Pham as saying.

So, this means that their expectations of high salaries put them in a narrower range of career options that do not harness their technical skills and knowledge. 

Another reason, those who work in local firms cannot directly apply the knowledge learned about industries that are pitched for Western contexts.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese branches of multinationals tended to specialize in manufacturing and distribution, not research and development, and had little need for technical skills. Consequently, overseas-trained graduates gravitated to managerial positions where they could use “soft” skills such as communication, but their engineering and scientific expertise was redundant.

Most interviewees felt that they were making little contribution to meeting Vietnam’s needs in areas such as health, poverty, human rights and public administration.

Cultural gap: there’s seemingly kind of discrimination in treating foreign-decree holders by Vietnamese employers, particularly government agencies or state-owned enterprises due to some differences. 

Overseas-educated graduates are those with their perception of foreign graduates as direct, assertive, lacking knowledge about local industries and personal connections.

Therefore, in the more hierarchical culture of Vietnamese-owned companies, employees who volunteered ideas were “not appreciated”, according to a research by Lien Pham who lectures in the Graduate Research School at the University of Technology Sydney.

How to fix?

If graduates can lower their expectations on salary and wanting to work in a foreign firm, they can apply their skills and knowledge for local firms. They can be more adaptable to the working culture in Vietnamese firms and develop necessary cultural intelligence to work in these firms as part of their re-try into Vietnam.

Universities abroad have the responsibility to include opportunities for these students to intern or undertake placements in the firms of students’ home country and not just in host countries. This would give students necessary work experience and connections.

When abroad, students can seek out opportunities back home as part of your career planning and ask for internships that can be conducted in Vietnamese firms or in industries similar to that in Vietnam. Establish networks in Vietnam and overseas, and continue to develop or build on those when you return home, Lien Pham suggested.

The Vietnamese government should have concrete policies for returning graduates, for example by providing opportunities in Vietnamese firms or state-owned enterprises that are directly aligned to their study disciplines, as well as establish networks with universities abroad for career pathways and advice, according to the expert.