RMIT Vietnam NewsInternational internships valuable for ASEAN job prospects, say uni students

International internships valuable for ASEAN job prospects, say uni students

Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 15:14
Dr Phillip Smith and Ms Helga Nagy

Vietnamese university students are keen to do an international internship as part of their studies to gain skills necessary for working in the ASEAN region, RMIT Vietnam researchers have found.

Almost half of 91 business undergraduates nearing the end of their degrees, who had recently completed a Vietnam work internship, would have chosen an international internship, a survey found.

And surprisingly, more women than men were keen on going international for their work experience.

Researchers Dr Philip Smith and Ms Helga Nagy have published their findings in a chapter in a new book Smart Technologies for Smart Nations: Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific Region (Managing the Asian Century), edited by Purnendu Mandal and John Vong.

Dr Smith, who lectures in the Centre of Commerce and Management, said that the movement of skilled people as expatriates will increase with the development of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the growth of the region’s economic block.

“Students will benefit from the experience of working in another ASEAN country or in a western country such as Australia in order to gain cross-cultural skills,” he said.

“For many students studying overseas is costly, so a supported international internship is more feasible.”

Ms Nagy, who until recently worked at RMIT Vietnam as a course leader in work-integrated learning, emphasised the importance of students gaining a “global mindset”.

“This requires an employee to manage across nations and cultures,” she said.

“They need to develop a level of comfort in inter-cultural workplaces and an international internship would help this.”

Such internships, Dr Smith and Ms Nagy argue, will help to fill skills gaps across ASEAN and within Vietnam.

“According to the Asian Development Bank, 45 per cent of employers in Asia face difficulty in finding suitable talent in their markets – even though Asia Pacific accounts for almost half of global unemployment,” Dr Smith said.

“International Labour Organisation research also highlights skills deficits as a major concern inhibiting growth in the region, recognising that graduates lack the ability to apply theory into practice.”

International internships could also stem the brain drain from Vietnam the researchers claim, with students gaining skills to take advantage of jobs in their home country.

In coming years Vietnam will continue to see an expanding job market but World Bank figures show 80 per cent of applicants in the professional and technical sectors lacking required skills.

“The World Bank says Vietnamese employers are looking for a mix of high quality cognitive, behavioural and technical skills, such as communication skills, critical and creative thinking, problem solving, being socially responsible and the ability to work in teams,” Ms Nagy said.

The university students are aware of the increasing importance of gaining hands-on experience in a real-life work setting – learning about overcoming language barriers and local business ethics and practices.

“Our survey indicates that students know they need to stretch their comfort zones in order to gain employment skills for a future world,” Ms Nagy said.

“More than 60 per cent said they wanted to be challenged by a new environment and a slightly lower number wanted to experience living in a western, English-speaking culture.”

The researchers acknowledged challenges for universities in establishing international internship systems – in the human resources and legal aspects, briefing businesses on their roles and responsibilities, mentoring to monitor progress and providing student support in situations of culture shock, stress and other problems that may arise.

Link to book chapter:

Story: Sharon Webb