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US says training key to investment

“I think building a world class education in Vietnam is probably the biggest challenge for the country in the time ahead”

Building an educated and professionally trained workforce is crucial for Vietnam to absorb new investment flows from the United States, said outgoing US ambassador Michael Michalak.

The ambassador, who recently finished a three-year stint in Vietnam, also said that focusing on hi-tech projects was a notable characteristic of the US’ third wave of investment here.

“Vietnam will see many more hi-tech enterprises from the US coming into Vietnam in the future,” Michalak said.

According to the ambassador, Intel and GE provided good examples for the other potential US enterprises to come to expand their businesses in the ASEAN country.

“I was amazed at the quality of GE’s investment activities in Vietnam when I visited its wind turbine plant in northern Haiphong,” Michalak said.

GE shipped the first batch of wind turbine generators from its Haiphong-based plant in the first quarter of 2010, less than a year after the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.

The complex produces generators for export to GE manufacturing and service facilities around the globe for use in finished wind turbines. At full capacity, the plant could employ as many as 400 people.

The US-based First Solar Technology Group has also planned to build a $1.2 billion manufacturing plant in Vietnam to help boost the company’s annual manufacturing capacity by nearly 500MW in order to meet strong demand for its advanced thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules.

The plant is expected to be completed in 2012, which will create approximately 600 green jobs. Negotiations and site assessments are going on in Vietnam and will be finalised in the near future.

But, Michalak said Vietnam needed to have a well educated and trained workforce in order to better utilise foreign investment.

“The country needs a better education system. I think building a world class education in Vietnam is probably the biggest challenge for the country in the time ahead,” he said.

“We’re truly entering into the knowledge-based age. And in order to function well, you need good education,” Michalak stressed.

In October 2010, Intel inaugurated its micro-chip plant in Ho Chi Minh City’s Hi-tech Park, the biggest in the world and the first semiconductor plant in Vietnam, which was built at the cost of about $1 billion.

Intel is planning to raise the plant’s capacity to 24 million products this year and pocket a revenue of $5-15 billion it comes into full operation in the next three to five years.

“Intel is bringing people from Singapore, the Philippines and South Korea into Vietnam since it could not find enough qualified engineers in Vietnam,” Michalak said.

As of late 2010, the US had registered a total of $13 billion in 556 projects in Vietnam, making it the seventh largest foreign investor in the country. The figures exclude investment from US companies’ subsidiaries in third countries like Singapore.

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