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August 7, 2007

Industry hit by serious staff shortage
There is a large shortage of human resources in the aviation industry in Vietnam in both quality and quantity, according to a recent survey by the Air Service and Travel Company (TransViet).

Every year, the aviation industry needs about 400 new staff to service its 20% annual growth rate, according to Mai Trung Thanh, TransViet's Training Director.

However, the number of newly-trained staff is far lower than the demand, Thanh says. Currently only the Vietnam Aviation Institute supplies training courses in this field, but it is located in the South and only trains staff for Vietnam Airlines. Vietnam Airlines also has a separate course to train booking staff organised four times a year, which is just enough for its requirements.

Even Vietnam Airlines' agencies only have one or two properly trained staff each, the rest learn professional skills through observation and work experience, the survey said.

There are more than 500 aviation agents in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, plus another 40 representatives of foreign airlines. TransViet's survey showed that 70% of these don't have their staff professionally trained.

Even TransViet mostly trains staff to be representatives for international airlines like United Airlines, British Airways and All Nippon Airways through on-the-job training but without official courses.

The shortage creates severe competition. Many airlines have to offer double the current salary to keep their qualified staff. Whenever a new airline enters the Vietnamese market, they head-hunt qualified employees from those already established, Thanh says.

However, the quality of service, due to a lack of staff training and practical experience, remains low. Thanh points out that, on average, Vietnamese booking staff may only deal with half as many clients as their Thai counterpart or one-third of Singapore agents.

According to Joe Mannix, head of United Airlines' Representative Office, the general capability of Vietnamese aviation staff is acceptable. However, there is a serious lack of in-depth knowledge about their profession, information technology or skills in dealing with sudden or urgent situations. They are also not very knowledgeable about their service's international standards.

The most basic and important skill for Vietnamese airline staff is fluent English; initiative and flexibility are also crucial, he added. The high demand on aviation staff is a good opportunity for training social skills, which calls on investment from all economic sectors.

Co-operating with the Vietnam Aviation Institute and with the support of the global booking system, Amadeus International, and United Airlines, TransViet will run a three-month training course for booking staff.

The company will also build a simulation training centre in Hanoi. The courses will open this month in HCM City and in September in Hanoi. In its second phase, the programme will be expanded to the training of other job types. The corporation will guarantee training quality based on the Aviation Institutes' standards and practical work experience.

Pham Thi Thuy, Director of Vietnam Aviation Institute's Training Centre says that students who want to follow the aviation profession face difficulties as they have to go to HCM City for training. But most of them stay there after graduation, leading to shortages in the North.

Training programmes will help both students and airlines, she says. On graduation, students will be either employed by TransViet or introduced to other agencies. VNA

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