For Industry 4.0’s workforce, up-skilling is a necessity

In 2018, the labour market is projected to heat up, as ASEAN Economic Community members give workers more opportunities for jobs within the region.

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Simon Matthews, country manager for ManpowerGroup in Vietnam
Simon Matthews, country manager for ManpowerGroup in Vietnam, Thailand, and the Middle East, talked to VIR about how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact the Vietnamese workforce.

Industry 4.0 is impacting Vietnam's workforce. Do you think that Industry 4.0 is causing increasing unemployment threats to Vietnamese workers?

According to the ManpowerGroup report “A skills revolution”, manufacturing has seen the greatest technological disruption. As the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold, total employment has declined while output has skyrocketed. Between 1990 and 2014, manufacturing’s share of total employment fell across almost all advanced economies – including Japan (-34 per cent), France (-33 per cent), the US (-31 per cent), and Germany (-25 per cent).

Digitalisation is by no means reserved for manufacturing, and white-collar work is being transformed as well. There are more monthly visits to virtual health advisors on the WebMD network than there are to doctors across the US. In the legal world, 60 million disagreements among eBay traders are handled using online dispute resolution rather than lawyers and judges – three times the number of lawsuits filed each year in the entire US court system.

Finance is bracing itself for disruption, from clerks and client-facing employees to market analysts. Up to 54 per cent of finance jobs are at risk, more than any other skilled industry in the US, after investments in financial technology tripled between 2013 and 2014 to reach $12.2 billion. 

Add retail into the mix, where 47 per cent of day-to-day activities performed by salespeople could be automated with current technology, and that soars to 86 per cent for the sector’s accountants, bookkeepers, and other data-processing workers.

Vietnam is no exception, and the roadmap is similar to those in more developed nations. The Vietnamese government has recently applied new technology to replace family record books with ID cards for demographics management. This is a good example of how digitalisation will replace office workers. That also means white-collar workers have to learn new skills to become employable in the age of Industry 4.0.

The future workplace need not be embattled between humans and robots. Vietnam still has time to equip its workforce with updated skills to stay competitive in the digital era.

Automation can only go so far, replacing simple and repetitive tasks. I would like to emphasise that creativity, emotional intelligence, and cognitive flexibility are skills that will tap human potential and allow people to augment robots, rather than be replaced by them.

Vietnamese companies are taking steps to increase their workforce quality in response to Industry 4.0. Do you think that their preparations are enough to keep up with the developments?

Our latest survey shows that choosing to offer training and development to existing staff to address a severe talent shortage could be considered the most effective solution in most sectors. 

More businesses are choosing to develop their workforce by collaborating with universities and vocational training institutions. However, this relationship is not strong enough. For example, businesses have not yet participated in or contributed ideas to the detailed development of training programmes.

In addition to a qualified and suitable workforce, technology is the golden key to businesses’ success in the age of Industry 4.0. Therefore, Vietnamese businesses need to invest in technology to increase their efficiency and competitiveness. 

However, about 99 per cent of Vietnamese enterprises are considered small- or medium-sized. They lack capital, technology investment, and manufacturing management experience. That is the reason why they face, and will continue to face, many difficulties.

Businesses need support from the government so that they can quickly innovate, improve their competitiveness, and keep up with Industry 4.0 to maximise their opportunities.

Businesses in Vietnam should prepare employees better in terms of skills and up-to-date technology. Companies need to change the way they recruit talent, applying digital applications in their recruitment and training.

How have foreign investors in Vietnam prepared for Industry 4.0 in terms of workforce quality?

The need for continuous learning is imperative, as it is a required ability for the local workforce to stay competitive and employable in this changing world of work. 

Intel Products Vietnam has decided to invest US$20 million to send students abroad for training, before returning to work for the firm. Italian companies in Vietnam offer training to existing or new recruits to build a talent pipeline for themselves.

They are also preparing a close relationship with schools for practical training programmes.

Since 2012, Samsung has invested more than VND38 trillion ($1.73 billion) through its co-operation with universities to develop high-quality human resources in Vietnam.

VIR

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