Việt Nam faces IT workforce shortage

November 05, 2021 - 08:24

Although the pandemic has disrupted industries all over the globe, some think it could be a catalyst that accelerates the digital transformation and opens a new era for the digital economy. Việt Nam is well placed to take advantage of this change, if enough experts can be trained in the field. 


Việt Nam needs more IT staff to run the digital economy, especially after the pandemic. — Photo courtesy Appota

Minh Hương

HÀ NỘI —  Although the pandemic has disrupted industries all over the globe, some think it could be a catalyst that accelerates the digital transformation and opens a new era for the digital economy. Việt Nam is well placed to take advantage of this change, if enough experts can be trained in the field. 

According to international research organisations, the Vietnamese economy has been one of the best performing during the pandemic, in part thanks to an adaptation to a digital economy. A study by Alphabet Temasek Holdings and Bain & Co suggests that the digital economy in Việt Nam may grow to US$52 billion by 2025, an annual increase of 29 per cent compared to 2020. 

The Vietnamese government is targetting 10 per cent of retail sales being online by 2025, and up to 50 per cent in Hà Nội and HCM City. This will create many avenues and opportunities in the digital economy.  

Appota‘s research said Việt Nam's current digital infrastructure provides the country with a competitive advantage. Việt Nam is in the top 12 countries for the cheapest internet charges in the world, at about US$11.27 per month per subscriber. This low price and wide accessibility make internet usage common across the country.  

Smartphones are the main connection device, thanks to convenience and popularity. Mobile internet speed has significantly improved, ranking second in Southeast Asia overall. 

Thanks to these advantages the country has a thirst for IT human resources, and many young people are starting business ventures that harness the power of the internet. 

As a result, the IT industry is growing quickly, which in turn creates more job opportunities. In the past five years, the demand for IT human resources in Việt Nam has continuously increased.

According to TopDev's 2020 IT market report Việt Nam needs 450,000 IT workers to meet the current demand.  However, as of the first quarter of 2021, it was estimated that there were only 430,000 IT programmers in Việt Nam, a shortfall of 20,000, said Trương Như, COO of TopDev.

Như told Việt Nam News, "This number included freelancers, unemployed programmers and those employed who do not work local enterprises so, in reality, the shortfall in IT staff is much higher."

In 2022, when the market is forecast to need 530,000 programmers, Việt Nam could be short by 150,000, according to TopDev.

This shortfall stems from the disparity between the programmer's qualifications and business requirements. Currently, only about 16,500 students, accounting for nearly 30 per cent of the total 55,000 students majoring in IT, meet the skills and requirements of enterprises.

Nguyễn Văn Vũ, founder and CTO of Appota Group, told Việt Nam News, “The current market is not just limited by national borders, but also the trend of digital transformation in companies, leading to the higher need to recruit human resources with IT majors.”

In the pandemic, when remote working became more commonplace, many businesses in the US, Singapore, Europe began recruiting high-quality personnel from Việt Nam, allowing them to work locally and receive international rates of pay, said Vũ.

He said: “This situation creates fierce competition between domestic and international enterprises. Globalisation and digital transformation are having a strong impact. In that context, IT human resources are increasingly sought after with high salaries.”

The increasing demand for IT experts provides great opportunities for young people joining the industry, if they are qualified. 

According to experts, the shortfall in the numbers of high-quality IT experts is mainly caused by a lack of qualifications, but also a lack of critical skills, knowledge of technical products and equipment, and language skills. 

Lê Tuấn, CTO of A-Level Education Company (AEC), specialising in English solutions for enterprises said, “Most of the local IT experts are great at their IT skills but not that good in English, which is the major language they work with. Developing their English language skills is vital to developing their standing on the international stage.”

Tuấn told Việt Nam News: “AEC has provided English Scrum, a specialised English training course for staff at top IT firms, and achieved good results. When the firms’ owners see the benefit of giving suitable training to their staff, their teams’ competitiveness and readiness in the outsourcing and service providing market reached new heights.”

Vũ, from Appota, said that in order to have suitable personnel, he often worked with universities to build internship programmes for students, meaning more graduates meets industry requirements in experience, initiative and creativity.

According to experts in the IT industry, the development of the industry requires programmers to learn and develop new skills to react to changes in the fast-changing and sometimes volatile market. 

Many IT companies welcome university studies to practise and get acquainted with programming and creativity, increasing their workplace experience. 

According to a recent survey on the future of the IT industry, AI ​​and Cloud technology will be the most popular field, followed by Fintech/Payment, e-commerce and retail. Other up-and-coming fields in the technology race are Big Data, Data Science, Machine Learning and AI, said the experts.

They also said demand for cybersecurity would increase in the post-pandemic period, posing problems in management, security, stability and privacy of data and systems. In particular, Crypto and Blockchain are emerging trends in recent times. 

In October, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) was collecting comments from relevant ministries, experts, institutions, branches, and localities to submit a draft strategy on science, technology & innovation (STI) in the period 2021 – 30 for approval.

To provide analytical support for MOST's STI, the World Bank has just launched a new report highlighting the importance of technology adoption and innovation for business resilience as well as for productive growth, especially needed as the COVID-19 triggered economic shock impacts the country.

The report considered new technologies associated with industry 4.0. It forecasts that digitalisation, automation, and artificial intelligence will reshape local low-cost, labour-intensive, manufacturing-led export strategies. — VNS