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Industry-linked Competition Transforms a Student into a Professional Automation Engineer

"After winning the Automation Competition, my life completely changed! Within a month, I’d visited Rockwell Automation’s Headquarters in Singapore and became an automation engineer for Qui Long Refrigeration."

Hoang Manh Duc could not have imagined how his life would change when he signed up for the Automation Competition sponsored by USAID-BUILD-IT, Rockwell Automation, First Solar, and Qui Long Refrigeration. Duc, a then shy fourth-year student at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, joined the competition to make new friends. Engrossed in the hi-tech automation kits Rockwell Automation offered competing students, Duc and his classmates bonded over long hours spent creating precision automation models, joking, and eating their meals over the machines.

Duc, third from left, wins the Automation Competition

The competition pushed automation students from across Vietnam to compete head-to-head to solve a precision challenge. Duc was drawn to tears when he was called on stage to receive the first place; prize an all-expenses-paid trip to Rockwell Automation’s headquarters in Singapore. Visiting Singapore was awe inspiring for Duc, who just got his first passport for the trip. To inspire next year’s competitors, Rockwell Automation created this video chronicling Duc’s trip to their Singapore Headquarters.

Returning from Singapore, competition sponsor Qui Long offered Duc a full-time position as an automation engineer at a project facility in Binh Dinh province. Duc traded in his school backpack and street clothes for an engineer’s jumpsuit, hard hat, and safety gloves. To support himself throughout university Duc held many part-time jobs, when his family learned that he found work engineering they were proud of him. As the first person in his family to graduate from university he is on track to support himself and his loved ones.

Duc at his work station

Wanting to pay it forward, Duc helped his fellow automation competitor Vo Hoang Quoc Phuong land a job at Qui Long. Together the boys learned the ins and outs of professional engineering. They joked to themselves, that on their project site they are learning the “art of working”; where they need to design, code, and collaborate on expansive construction projects. Duc is eager to re-new his first year’s contract and grow into a supervisor at Qui Long.

Duc’s transformation is a testament to the impact of industry-linked learning during university. The Automation Competition encouraged students to develop in-demand technical and soft skills while mastering Rockwell Automation’s latest tools. Tools that competition sponsors First Solar and Qui Long are using daily. USAID-BUILD-IT, implemented by Arizona State University, initiated the Automation Competition as a public-private partnership that would train students and faculty on the latest tools, integrate these tools into university lesson plans, and give students and industry an exciting competition to identify top automation students. From 2020 onward, university and industry partners will sustain the competition as an annual collaboration.

Shared value partners like the Automation Competition align the pace of university education and the needs of the industry to train work-ready students, like Duc, to become professional engineers.