Recognising a critical resource for change and development: The digital workforce

On March 14th, 2019, Arizona State University in partnership with The American University in Vietnam and Danang University of Science and Technology hosted the 7th Annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Conference in Vietnam, best known as STEMCON Vietnam.

STEMCON Vietnam was first launched in 2012 by the Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program (HEEAP), a project funded by Intel Vietnam and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by ASU. This year, STEMCON Vietnam brought together more than 400 leaders from industry, academia and government to discuss and thoroughly examine the topic of The Future Digital Workforce: Implications and Opportunities in STEM.

Recognising a critical resource for change and development: The digital workforce

Over the last decade, the fourth industrial revolution has significantly impacted labor markets worldwide, including Vietnam, and it is poised to transform the shape of the global economy. With technological advances, repetitive and monotonous jobs are gradually being automated to boost business productivity and profits.

Although the digital transformation implies there will be a great number of jobs displaced, it does not correlate to less job availability, or that humans are now less important, especially in STEM fields. On the contrary, at STEMCON 2018, corporate leaders confirmed that in order to achieve real and sustainable performance goals, “people with the right skills” will be the "secret ingredient" in the digital world.

Additionally, Danang City, host of this year's conference, is one of the largest cities in Vietnam that recognizes these significant changes since the fourth industrial revolution has started.

Dr. Dang Viet Dung, Vice Chairman of People's Committee of Danang City shared, “Over the past 20 years, from a small city in the central of Vietnam, where the economy is small in size and grows slowly, and people have to face many difficulties in their daily life, Danang has changed and become a well-known city on the world map. Danang is modern, but still it retains the sustainable identity of a coastal city."

"In the past, our resources were unutilized, and the city was underdeveloped," Dr. Dang Viet Dung added. "To change the situation, we have mobilized many resources to invest and grow. Especially, we have been concentrating to mobilize and utilized human resources. But still, regarding the future technological development, we know that if we keep the development plan remains unchanged or unadapted, we will not be able to meet the future needs."

Indeed, it is a great challenge for Vietnam to meet the future needs of the STEM labour force in terms of both quantity and quality. Calculations based on STEM-related business growth rates in Vietnam have forecasted that there will be great demand for STEM labour, specifically the need for over 100,000 bachelor degrees in Information Technology by 2020. Currently, only 30% out of approximately 50,000 new graduates in Vietnam are recognized as having appropriate skills or ready-to-work. Meanwhile, requirements for a highly-skilled workforce, especially in Information Technology fields, increase by 47% per year.

To overcome this challenge, “it’s important for us to work together to identify needs and generate relevant, yet innovative models in education and trainings. The integration of these perspectives can propel innovation forward in a coordinated, informed, and progressive direction,” said Jeffrey Goss, Associate Vice Provost of SE Asia Programs, Arizona State University.

“Now is the crucial time for events like STEMCON Vietnam to bring everyone together to discuss the challenges, opportunities and strategies for Vietnam to become a leader in building human capital,” Uyen Ho, Director of Global Public Affairs, Intel Vietnam & Malaysia contributed to the discussion. “Simply put, companies cannot grow without a skilled and sustainable workforce,” she added.

To synchronize human resource development efforts in Vietnam, collaboration between industry, academia and government is indispensable. With the strong connection among the three main parties, a highly qualified STEM workforce is achievable in the near future. Instead of a shortage, the qualified Vietnam STEM workforce, in the key areas of Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Storage, Virtual Reality (VR), Reality Enhancement (AR), Blockchain technology, Internet of Things, E-Commerce, Business Processes and IT Outsourcing, will become a competitive advantage for the country.

Choosing high technology to develop Vietnam digital economy in the industry 4.0 era

Presenting at the event, Dr. Dang Viet Dung also emphasized: “Previously, Danang City was developed mainly based on finite resources, and partly on developing labour force. However, with the upcoming new policies, we determine to redirect investments towards fully developing the local human resources."

Dr. Dang Viet Dung added, "We define the digital economy as one of the five spearhead economic sectors of Danang for 15 - 30 years to come and we choose to invest in developing high technology to develop Danang digital economy. The seminar today is greatly meaningful to Danang City as we want to learn about how to develope the workforce that will meet the expectations in the future."

During two days of interactive plenary sessions, panel discussions, technical sessions, workshops and seminars, participants were able to share the challenges and opportunities of the digital economy, workforce trends, education policies and innovative education models for Vietnam.

See the 2019 STEMCON Program

Industry Achievement and Scholarship Awards

The conference highlighted the great efforts and successes of Vietnamese faculty with the Pearson Education Innovation Award Vietnam. The recipient, Nguyen Minh Quang, was recognized for his innovative teaching approach that enhances engagement, collaboration, and idea exchanges. He received sponsored travel and accommodation at this year's conference, as well as an invitation to participate in the BUILD-IT Certified Facilitator Training Program. In late April, Nguyen Minh Quang traveled to Tempe, Arizona to attend the Pearson Now/Next in learning conference, where he was able to explore opportunties to learn in modern, innovative ways, and further discuss 21st century skills needed to adapt and succeed.

Also, in the spotlight, female engineering students were recognized with the eSilicon – BUILD-IT Female Engineering Student Scholarship Program. The program, which aims to recognize women demonstrating excellence in their fields and encourage outstanding global citizenship, is offered to undergraduates in electrical engineering, electronics and related majors. Graduates of the program are offered internships or graduate employment with eSilicon Vietnam.

STEMCON Vietnam will return to Hanoi in 2020. You can follow #STEMCONVietnam for updates, or subscribe here to receive updates.