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Made to suit

08/09/2015, 11:34

As the manufacturing sector continues to lead the way in Vietnam there are many matters that require greater attention from employers and employees alike.

2014 witnessed the gradual recovery of Vietnam’s economy, which led to steady growth in the domestic labour market. The manufacturing sector saw the most observable changes and developments as foreigners poured more and more investment into this and other burgeoning sectors in Vietnam such as textiles and high-technology. Another factor behind the development of the manufacturing sector has been the shift by many enterprises away from China to Vietnam, due to reasons that include labour costs, convenient travel and transport between the two countries, political stability, and tax policies (lower import and export taxes and the establishment of many tax-free export processing zones).

Demand for workers among Vietnam’s manufacturing enterprises in 2014 and the opening months of this year therefore increased significantly but supply has fallen short of requirements. Positions in the manufacturing industry where recruitment is problematic include skilled engineers, electrical engineers, and mechanical engineers in Ho Chi Minh City, (2) and skilled mechanical & electrical maintenance engineers, skilled testing engineers, SMT engineers, and programming engineers in Hanoi. Recruitment demands focus primarily on highly-skilled engineers with 3-5 years of experience, English proficiency, and a capacity for development. Given that supply has not met the demand, over the last 1-2 years enterprises have become more proactive in recruitment and training potential post-graduate students. They provide training courses in both soft skills and industry knowledge to create a generation of employees that can be the successors to its existing experienced and professional staff. Enterprises are also experiencing human resources shortages in the middle and senior management levels that are ready to work in provinces, because many engineers at middle and senior management levels seek to work in the country’s two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces.

For engineers and experts in the manufacturing sector, however, this represents an excellent chance for them to find greater career opportunities. Salary was previously the deciding factor in a manufacturing candidate’s choice but now, with more options to choose from, they are keen to learn more about the working environment before making any long-term commitment to an enterprise. They are increasingly active in finding a suitable career, by contacting headhunting firms, posting on LinkedIn, and attending seminars and conferences to approach employers. Compared to other jobs, engineers in the manufacturing sector still lack information about the market and the industry, so choosing to work with a headhunting firm has become common as they can provide candidates with information on the needs and expectations of enterprises, the necessary skills, and the average salary in the market.

It is expected that within the next few years the electronics and textiles industries will develop strongly and that the needs for recruitment in these fields will become “hotter”, especially with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to come into being later this year. Enterprises will have a range of new business opportunities and, of course, the risk of them losing talent is inevitable. This requires that the Board of Directors, leaders, and the HR department at manufacturing enterprises adopt specific and appropriate HR plans to retain their existing talent. Policies on compensation and benefits, training and development programs, as well as a professional culture must be developed and implemented in an innovative and flexible way in order to attract, develop and retain potential employees, which all remain weaknesses among manufacturing enterprises. The workload of the HR department at factories is so high that there is little time for strategic activities. To prepare for the future, enterprises must understand the needs of their employees and the expectations of each job level. They will then be able to be creative in their human resources policies and activities. Enterprises should also work more with HR consultants to remain up-to-date on the latest information on the industry’s labour market and learn from the experiences of other enterprises to ensure they are competitive.

For Vietnamese workers, the AEC will clearly present opportunities to work for enterprises not only in Vietnam but also in foreign countries. To seize these opportunities, however, manufacturing engineers must equip themselves with higher levels of English skills and soft skills. For the professional and staff levels, English skills, a full awareness of new technologies, and possession of the latest knowledge are essential. Employees at these levels need to be bold and sufficiently active to expand their relationships with others, attending seminars and events on a regular basis to remain abreast of the latest developments. Management level staff need to focus more on their communication skills and leading, inspiring, and managing people, which are skills not readily found in management levels in the manufacturing industry. The efficiency and productivity of Vietnamese engineers are still not competitive compared with those from other countries.

It can’t be denied that the AEC presents a host of opportunities for both enterprises and employees in the manufacturing industry. Understanding the market, the analyzing strategy and long-term vision in place, and preparing carefully should be the key focus, so that enterprises and employees can guarantee their competitiveness at home and maintain an active position abroad.

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