HA NOI — The implementation of a universal and consistent set of occupational skills standards is crucial for the development of Viet Nam's tourism sector, according to international experts and industry insiders during a workshop held on Thursday.
|Tourists visit the Thien Cung Cave in Ha Long Bay, in the northern province of Quang Ninh. Development of the tourism industry is being held back by a lack of a consistent set of occupational skills standards. — VNA/VNS Photo Tran Viet
As strong growth in the tourism sector has created higher demand for front-line staff and well-trained managers, such standards will act as a benchmark for measuring the performance of workers in the tourism industry and lay the foundation for effective training activities.
Viet Nam began compiling its first set of national occupational skills standards for the tourism sector in 2008 and is in the process of finalising it.
However, along with the country deeper international integration, the national standards being developed in Viet Nam have to meet industry requirements and come in line with international standards, said Vu Quoc Tri, deputy director of Viet Nam's National Tourism Administration's International Co-operation Department.
According to Tri, Viet Nam has joined other ASEAN members to adopt the Mutual Recognition Arrangement on Tourism Professionals in 2009, which means Viet Nam's national occupational skills standards must be compatible with the common competency standards of ASEAN tourism professionals.
He said such compatibility was a prerequisite to facilitate the free flow of tourism professionals among the ASEAN region, which is set to begin in 2015.
Though rather than starting from the scratch, the content of the national occupational skills standards will be developed by mapping and cultivating several standard systems currently in practice.
"There is no need to re-invent the wheel. We should use the best of what is available to meet the needs of all our stakeholders," said Paul Pentfold, an international tourism expert.
One of the main references cited was the Viet Nam Tourism Occupation Skills Standards (VTOS), which was developed under the European Union-funded project "Human Resources Development in Tourism" from 2004 to 2010.
The VTOS, which sets the minimum skill requirements for 13 occupations at entry level in both travel and hospitality, are still being taught at vocational colleges, according to representatives present at the workshop.
However, the national occupational skills standards would have to cover all industry levels, said Pham Thi Thanh Ngoc, vice rector of Hai Phong Vocational College in Tourism and Services.
Viet Nam Tourism Association deputy chairman Vu The Binh said that the biggest challenge was to engage tourism professionals, especially those working in travel, in training activities to meet standards.
"The fact is that managers in travel companies pay scant attention to training activities. Out of 1,000 companies nation-wide, only 30 to 40 managers are interested in providing training for their employees," he said.
Binh added that, as the Tourism Law has been under review, there was a need to amend certain provisions to re-organise the sector to ensure that it's mandatory for all tourism professionals to meet the occupational standards in order to operate at the designated level.
According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalid Social Affairs' Vocational Training Department, Viet Nam has issued national occupational skills standards for 122 occupations in different sectors, including industry, commerce, transport and construction. — VNS