Story by Do Huong

February 21, 2024



Kim Huat Ooi, Vice President of Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Operations and General Manager of Intel Products Vietnam, spoke to The Hanoi Times about Vietnam's semiconductor ambitions and Intel's contribution to making the country a global manufacturing and R&D hub.


Let's go back to 2006, when we landed as pioneers and helped the country attract many other investors, such as Samsung, Nokia, and many other companies. And it's still attracting a lot of investors. Right now, Vietnam is looking at how to create an additional 50,000 semiconductor professionals by 2030 to support its growth.

Based on that, the country has an excellent ambition to try to grow. We all know that semiconductors, especially during the pandemic, are a critical industry for any country.

If you look at it, people are studying and working from home. All the digitalization technologies need a lot of semiconductors.

Today, the industry is worth about $500 billion. The figure will double to about $1 trillion by 2030, attracting many countries, including the US, Europe, and Vietnam, who want to be part of this exciting journey. What the government has outlined is the right direction. And Intel can undoubtedly play a role in all of this.

I want to emphasize a couple of things. I think 50,000 is a good target because you need the people.

Vietnam has a lot of advantages that led us to come here 18 years ago. You have political stability and a strategic location. And the government is very focused on education in terms of training. So you have this partnership between the government, the foreign-invested companies like Intel, and the university. I think it's a very good combination.


Eighteen years ago, when we started, we helped modernize the education system. It's much more theoretical, and then we worked with the Ministry of Education and Training to update some of it.

And we are very proud to share that through the HEEAP [Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program]. We invested about $22 million to modernize the curriculum.

Some of these programs have gained recognition in Asia and the engineering institutions you know, allowing us to have so many more industry-ready engineers. Once they graduate, many of them can work on some parts of what the industry needs. That is good.

But there is so much development today, like AI. Intel is part of it. We introduced the AI PC. So, the AI part is a good example of how the country needs to continuously upgrade itself to prepare us for what's coming, and there's a lot more opportunity for that.


We also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ho Chi Minh University of Technology to embark on this AI journey. We are working with the university on curriculum changes to make sure that the newer curriculum is more focused on the emerging technologies that the industry needs.

Pros and Cons


Let’s go back to 18 years ago when we considered the location. There were a couple of options. We talked about India, China, and Vietnam, but the good news is that we actually ended up here. I think it was a great journey, and there are a couple of reasons if you look at it. It is certainly a political stability, and that provides quite a good foundation

The country, Ho Chi Minh City leadership in particular, had a lot of foresight that the high-tech semiconductor technology would benefit the city and the country. And that is why the government incentivized us to set up our first manufacturing plant. 

Today, we have about 6,500 high-tech workers and 2,400 Intel direct employees. The high-tech worker typically earns higher wages than the other labor-intensive workers in the shoe industry. At the same time, Vietnam has a big population. Aside from China, 100 million is actually a huge population. With that, the wages are very reasonable.

It also allows Intel and local workers to dive into research & development (R&D). I'm happy to share that besides the manufacturing, we are also doing a sizable part of the new product introduction, which is in the area of R&D. 

One of the things we have done is use a 3D packaging technology called Foveros. That brings a lot of technical content, which allows our local engineers to contribute technically to the development of Intel on that particular product line.

Through those efforts, our engineer found intellectual property back in the US in terms of some of the inventions by way of our work in Vietnam. We are applying some of the patterns back to the US and getting a lot of good recognition for what we do.


I want to mention what we call back-end assembly test manufacturing, which excludes fabrication. A single fabrication plant is probably about $20 billion. Currently, Vietnam is not at that stage yet, but I think the country has a lot of good ambitions. In time, the government wants to drive up the value chain regarding the chip design, for example. After chip design, the next step is fabrication, which goes to the assembly and test. That is what Intel Vietnam is doing right now.

The challenge is how we have the human talents and resources beyond the back end. Even though the back end is pretty complex. What we do in assembly and testing requires precision in terms of microns. But there are areas that we do need a bigger pool of talents in our current plan. We probably have about 3% of our people involved in this new product introduction and R&D.


But as a country, we need a bigger talent pool for us to grow beyond that, so I would suggest we should have more laborers with master's and Ph.D. degrees. Over time, that part of education will become more important because we need more people who will be continuously developed. That requires the next level of in-depth technical knowledge that is required to have that specialization. So I think that's one aspect of it.

The other aspect is also how we can strengthen the collaboration between Intel, universities, and the Ministry of Education and Training to modernize the curriculum, which can meet the future needs of the semiconductor industry, including R&D, chip design, or someday, it could be fabrication which requires a lot of capital. But beyond the capital, human resources require more specialization to achieve the ambitions of participating in more stages of the semiconductor industry.

Quality of education and training


Graduating the 50,000 semiconductor experts is the right goal because there is a lot of interest in the country regarding high-tech investment. 

To achieve this goal, the government should keep investing in education and training to provide future human resources for the industry. Strengthening the collaboration between the government, educational institutions, and investors, including Intel, to ensure Vietnam has enough qualified human resources to succeed in the semiconductor industry. 

Last but not least, the incentive policies for FDI must be attractive enough to draw investment. Foreign investment can help bring in new technology, expertise, and best-in-class experts with many years of experience in semiconductors, which can help improve the quality of education and training for high-tech human resources.

Then I think the next question we ask ourselves is where the location should be. And I think the three locations you mention are a very good starting point. This is where a lot of the major companies are located. 


You have the right investors and the priority from the government. These places are also where you have many popular universities. The University of Technology is also pretty much concentrated in these three locations. Also, the infrastructure of the city [Ho Chi Minh City] is very developed in terms of transportation, network, etc. 

I think it is true that we should start from there where, again, you have most of the investors. And together with the government's interest and the existing investors, that partnership can come together to give everything a start.

So, these locations are good starting points for revamping the curriculum to ensure that the graduated students will be industry-ready thanks to the partnership between the universities, companies like Intel, and the Ministry of Education and Training.

Second, companies like Intel can provide internships so the students can be exposed to the challenges that happen in the company. They also can partner with us to do their research during the school year on solving some of the tough problems.

Once they experienced the exposure and graduated, they'll be ready to return to the company and become employees. We have a lot of employees who actually graduated from the University of Technology in Ho Chi Minh City. We also assign the university's graduate students to go back and share their experiences when working as engineers with the current students, such as what they have learned and the challenges.

So, I see a lot of good in that partnership, which can even expedite the 50,000 semiconductor experts that the country wants to groom by 2030.


From producing only one product in 2010, IPV can now produce high-tech, complex products. As production expands, so does the workforce. In 2023, IPV has created more than 6,500 jobs, with about 2,400 direct employees, double the number in 2016. IPV has become more involved in research and manufacturing collaborations with Intel research centers worldwide. This is a testament to IPV's workforce's skills and technological level.

In 2010, almost all of the factory's technical managers were foreigners. But eleven years later, 95% of the workforce is Vietnamese, holding positions from production specialists to department managers and even the factory's board of directors.


There are a number of universities that produce good graduates. This allows investors, including Intel, to leverage and grow. As I mentioned, about 3% of the workforce is involved in R&D. 

With a larger pool of human resources, we have a plan to increase the number of people who are beyond normal manufacturing and more involved in R&D. We're interested, and we've already talked to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry and Trade about what we have in mind.

At the same time, Vietnam has high-tech investment laws that allow companies like Intel to make investments. Vietnam also has a fairly large pool of chip design engineers. Currently, we have people in the chip design engineering team at Intel Vietnam. The team is part of the chip design engineering team at Intel Malaysia. We intend to expand the team over time.

Thank you for your time!




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