Last week: Viet Nam News asked its readers about their opinions on blue and white-collar jobs and the ways to attract more young people to take vocational training courses to address the chronic lack of skilled workers.
Le Kim Thoa, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I spent more than five years in Finland, and I was surprised by its vocational training system which creates chances for all.
Vocational education is an integral part of secondary education. After nine years of comprehensive schooling, almost all students choose either high school which prepares students for tertiary education, or a vocational school.
Both forms of secondary education last three years, and give a formal qualification to enter higher vocational schools or university.
The education in vocational school is free, and the students from low-income families are eligible for a state student grant. The curriculum is primarily vocational, and the academic part of the curriculum is adapted to the needs of a given course. Vocational schools are mostly maintained by municipalities.
However, in Viet Nam, the big problem is that many young people aren t aware of the need to get vocational training. In reality, job centres are responsible for providing career guidance for young people. But their staff rarely visits schools or residential areas to provide advice to young people. Even worse, many centres are short of qualified staff.
Consultancy groups should be established to assist young people who have to work far from home, support vocational training programmes and the transition to advanced technical applications.
Graham Bassett, British, London
Maybe if vocational training was called vocational education, its stature would increase.
Unfortunately, vocational subjects have always been regarded as second rate, even here in the UK. Indeed governments throughout the world proclaim that university is top. I used to think like that until a chance conversation years ago.
I mentioned to a friend that I had always regarded myself a failure because I only went to college. He took me aside and said "Look at that man across the road, he is a teacher. And yet he is less qualified than you. Yes, he can teach, and that s all. Ask him to change a lamp and he struggles."
He then pointed out that because I had been trained to use all manner of tools I could turn my hands to many things. And he was right.
We tend to forget that the people who build, make and fashion all manner of things are just as skilled and educated as those at the so called top, but in a different way. Certainly I don t regret the four years apprenticeship that I served to become an electrician. I have never been short of work and through a constant supply of additional training I can do things that I d never have thought possible years ago.
Kath Tudor, British, Bristol City
If you think about it some of the top professions such as medicine, dentistry and science are vocational, so why aren t other vocations
such as design, plumbing, and catering equally valued?
My own educational background is in the visual arts which Viet Nam is
extremely rich in; however, when I visit schools and take part in education exhibitions, eight out of 10 parents of young people want their children to study business, business, and business.
I don t understand why
young people aren t encouraged to follow their passions when they first leave school whether it s art, engineering or music and then qualify in business at a later stage should they wish to. Can Viet Nam really support all these business people and yet not encourage artists and designers, engineers and carers?
Nguyen Ngoc Dung, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
In Viet Nam and many Asian countries, university entrance exams exert pressure on thousands of students who have just left high school. Having a university degree is not only the desire of students themselves, but of their parents.
Parents often do not want their children to take vocational training courses because workers usually have to work hard with lower salaries. Blue-collar parents encourage their children to study hard so they will be better off than their parents.
Some poor parents used to sell their buffalos, their best property, to pay for their children s university costs. White-collar parents certainly don t want their children to have a worse qualification than they did.
To dream of having a university degree isn t a bad thing. However, there it s a fact that our country lacks a lot of skilled workers while many young graduates can t find suitable jobs. I have never gone abroad before, but I know that some European countries don t respect degrees that much. Instead, they respect real abilities, and more importantly a worker can earn a good amount of money and have a reasonable life.
The Government and the Ministry of Education and Training should publicise the experience of successful manual workers to help young students understand the importance of vocational training.
Patrick Moran, British, HCM City
The global education system would rather produce a mediocre bank clerk than an elite carpenter. As you say society and parents reinforce the situation because of "white collar" and "blue collar" status symbols.
Looking at the world of economists, lawyers, bankers, financial services for speculators - it seems to me that we have a surfeit of white collars already!
My father s life was dominated by two world wars interspersed with the depression of the 1930s. He had three ambitions for me; one, security; two, security; three, security.
He wanted me to go to university and become a teacher. He convinced me that the debt cycle had not gone away and my life would certainly suffer from frequent financial crises, recessions and possibly another depression.
As a teenager I wanted to be an entrepreneur even though I didn t know what at. As an experienced pupil I knew I would hate teaching except for people who were enthusiastic about learning. I qualified for university but am not academic enough to excel and was impatient to get more valuable experience of the real world. This experience reinforced the need to be my own boss.
My father was disgusted when I didn t go to university and even more disgusted at my various ventures. I stressed that I valued his experience of debt cycles, would be very careful about my own debts but when things turned nasty, as the boss, I would be the last person to get the sack!
My main business was selling pensions, then teaching other people to sell pensions, then teaching other people to teach other people to sell pensions! Since their income depended on it they were all desperate to learn.
My younger brother is a talented linguist and my father was delighted when he went to Oxford and then became a university lecturer. He resigned and is now a successful freelance, independent, translator!
It is up to the individual to strike a balance between the invaluable experience of their parents, their own talents and a changing world. VNS