|Work in progress: The employment agency in HCM City's Mien Dong Bus Station attracts youngsters seeking jobs.
Placing employment agencies at bus stations has helped many migrants find jobs and is the sort of innovation needed for Viet Nam to weather the economic storm, say experts. Gia Loc and Thien Ly report.
The An Suong Bus Station swelters under the scorching sun that has been holding HCM City in its gaze for nearly one month now, sending temperatures to their highest in the last two years.
Is it the heat that is sending people scampering to a small room just in front of the station gate? An air-conditioned space that would offer some much welcome respite from the heat? A ticketing office?
A closer look reveals that the room is almost always full of people, most of whom have arrived in buses from south-western provinces to find work. They make a beeline to this small room for help in finding jobs in the big city, they know almost nothing about.
And although sweat is running down his face, which has turned red in the heat of the March sun, Dinh Cong Chinh, who heads the office, is still cheerful.
Not flustered by the crowd, he patiently receives them one by one and imparts useful work related information.
Tran Thanh Toan of Tay Ninh Province is the sixth of Chinh's guests on this scorching day. On his friends' advice, he has come to find work in HCM City.
"This is the first time I am in the city, so everything is very strange, quite apart from the fact that I want to find a job here. However, I have been very lucky. As soon as I stepped off the bus I saw this office," said 23-year-old Toan.
"Honestly, I should say that when I was walking to this office, I did not believe that it would help me find a job. So many people including my friends have remained jobless for long even after paying a lot of money.
"So it has been a great surprise that I have been introduced to a petrol station in the city and can start working there next month. And I have to pay nothing for this service!"
Chinh is ebullient. It has been a good day. He has received 12 people so far, and seven have been able to find suitable jobs. Three others can attend vocational training courses.
"My duty now is to help them to fill application forms to send to employers," he said.
Nguyen Thi Kim Nhung has not come from afar or near to seek work in HCM City. She is from Hoc Mon District, but she is thankful to the Employment Introduction Office at the An Suong Bus Station.
"Four months ago, I lost my job when my company cut back on its staff because of financial difficulties. I was very worried since I did not know how to earn money to raise my daughter.
"One day, as I passed the An Suong Bus Station I happened to see the employment office there. Mustering up my courage, I stepped in. I was received by a young man. I came to know later that his name was Chinh. He worked zealously to provide me with information about jobs that he thought would suit me," Nhung recalled.
"Thanks to Chinh's introduction, I was hired as a cook by a restaurant in District 3's Vo Van Tan Street. Although my starting salary is only VND3 million (US$150) per month, it is very important for me at this time. More significantly, I did not have to pay any money for this service. I sincerely thank the office and Chinh," Nhung said.
Toan and Nhung are among thousands who have found jobs with help from the employment office.
"Most of the people who rely on the office for employment are poor labourers coming from provinces, so they do not know about procedures for applying for a job as well as other things like how to find a place to live. Many of them have been cheated several times trying to seeking a job here, paying a lot of money but getting nothing in return," Chinh said.
At his office, job seekers not only receive free consultancy services, but are also introduced to businesses and enterprises that are recruiting. In addition, the office also helps them complete employment application procedures and even find suitable living places at reasonable prices.
The An Suong Bus Station's Employment Office can be called the "one-person one-office" model because Chinh acts as both the boss and employee there. He has to do all things from counselling, collecting employment information from companies, writing letters of introduction and receiving calls from job seekers.
"I have to update recruitment information from enterprises every week. After introducing workers to the companies, I have to call the workers to ask them if they have found jobs or not, or if they are satisfied with their jobs or not."
However, he also said that in spite of having a hard job, "I am very happy since I feel useful here."
|Wall of opportunity: The Employment Introduction Office at the Mien Dong Bus Station
The number of people who come to seek jobs at the Employment Introduction Office in the Mien Dong Bus Station may be the highest.
"Everyday I receive dozens of job seekers, many of them coming from northern provinces, including those having relatively high education levels, from intermediate to college and university degrees," said Do Duc Chinh, who is in charge of this office.
"I also write letters of introduction for more than 20 people a day. Because the number of job seekers coming to my office is more than the other similar offices, I have to update enterprises' recruitment information every day to meet the demand, " Chinh said.
Nguyen Aùnh Nguyet Thu, 25, of Binh Thanh District, said such offices are very important to poor workers like her.
"It provides us with useful and accurate employment information while we do not have to pay any money. More significantly, when we have letters of introduction from the office, the enterprises often give us priority since they believe in the office," Thu said.
"I hope the city will have more similar employment offices to assist needy people."
Need of the hour
The Employment Introduc-tion Office at the An Suong Bus Station is one of four set up by the Centre of Vocational Guidance, Training and Introduction for Youth under the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union at the city's major bus stations, the others being Mien Dong, Mien Tay and Nga Tu Ga.
The centre's deputy director, Nguyen Van Sang, said the initiative to set up the employment offices at the city's bus stations was taken after seeing the difficulties faced by people from other localities when they came to find work. They had little knowledge about the city and its employment situation. This allowed "labour brokers to take advantage of the workers' weak points, forcing them to pay high fees to get a job. Consequently, many workers got very hard jobs with meagre salaries after paying a lot of money," Sang said.
"Faced with this situation, the municipal Youth Union asked us to make a programme to support workers who come from provinces," he said.
So the centre co-operated with the Sai Gon Transportation Mechanical Corporation (SAMCO) and the Youth Union organisations of Binh Thanh and Binh Tan districts to establish the first employment introduction offices at the Mien Dong and Mien Tay bus stations in 2011.
The offices were tasked with collecting recruitment information from enterprises, provide free consultancy services to job seekers including introducing them to prospective employers and advising them to take appropriate vocational courses.
But the offices have gone beyond their main duties to provide workers with information relating to transportation, accommodation and other aspects of city life that would help the latter minimise their living costs.
In the first year, the two offices received about 15,000 recruitment requirements from local companies and establishments and wrote letters of introduction for 7,000 labourers, of which 30 per cent were hired.
Encouraged by the success, the centre decided to establish another two offices - the one in An Suong Bus Station opened last year and the second at the Nga Tu Ga Bus Station this year.
"In 2011, when the programme was just launched most people did not know about it. The centre had to call on volunteers mainly from universities and colleges to participate to disseminate information about the employment offices among the workers," Sang said.
"After three years, the centre has attracted thousands of volunteers from local universities and colleges to help introduce these employment offices. This year alone, 300 volunteers have delivered 15,000 leaflets to labourers at the bus stations."
Information about these offices are also publicised on mass media like the internet and television.
Nguyen Thanh Tung, who graduated from the Lac Hong-Dong Nai University's banking and financial faculty, said," I came to know about the Mien Dong Bus Station's Employment Introduction Office via the Internet. I decided to seek their help early this month, and I was guided on how to find a stable job… and I did not have to pay anything."
"The model of the employment introduction offices at the local bus station is really useful for job seekers particularly those coming from provinces like me," he said.
In 2012, the centre set up a telephone hotline 1088(155) which received over 1,560 calls, of which 60 per cent come from job seekers and remaining 40 per cent of the enterprises in need of recruitment.
In the first quarter of this year alone, as many as 17,500 people visited the centre's employment offices at the four bus stations, of whom 6,638 were interviewed and about 25 per cent were hired as accountants, salespersons, delivery boys, maid servants, cooks' helpers, and security guards with monthly salaries ranging from VND3 million to VND15 million.
The positive results can be attributed in part to the active support provided to the offices by many enterprises in the city.
About 500 companies have worked with the offices and are now offering 15,500 jobs in various sectors including garment, sales, services and driving.
Nguyen Tri Tue, director of the Chang Se Engineering Company, said, "When my company was newly established, we needed to recruit four people - one electrical engineer, one mechanical engineer and two casting workers.
"Acting on my friend's advice, I contacted the employment office at the Mien Dong Bus Station. In just two weeks, I received eight letters of introduction was able to hire people that matched our needs."
"The reason that we have been able to achieve such good results is that we have received material and spiritual support from youth unions and the leadership of District 12, Binh Tan, Binh Thanh and Hoc Mon," Sang said.
"The city Party Committee and People's Committee have also helped us to carry out the programme by providing us with human resources."
However, because of limited finances, all our four employment offices at the bus stations are staffed by just one person.
"So, although these employees have always done their best to fulfil their duties, there are some efficiency limitations as well," Sang said.
Sang as well as other leaders centre desire to multiply this model at many other places in the city as well as neighbouring localities in order to give the best possible assistance to job seekers.
"We plan to co-operate with television stations of other provinces to regularly disseminate information about the programme" so that migrants will have easier access to finding jobs in the city to earn their living.
"This will make contributions to the city's development." - VNS