"Attracting talent with salary will be unsuccessful": minister
"It is difficult or even a failure to attract talent by salary,” said Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha in the second part of the roundtable talk on the theme "The policy to attract overseas Vietnamese to contribute to building the country".

How to attract overseas Vietnamese to return to VN 

“Thu hút người tài bằng lương sẽ thất bại”

From left: Prof. Ngo Bao Chau, Minister Phung Xuan Nha and journalist Ha Anh.

Prof Ngo Bao Chau: There are many levels to attract overseas Vietnamese. Firstly, we can talk about the youngest group -those who have just graduated with a PhD degree.

This is the group of talent who are willing to return home with very modest salaries because there are many things to attract them back home rather than those who are older and have a family and children overseas.

If you put yourself in the position of young Ph.D. degree holder who returns to Vietnam, you will see how hard for them to find a job. They will have to phone their parents to ask whether their parents know any official of a university or an institute.
That means our labor market is problematic.

I think that the recruitment information of universities must be extremely transparent. Such policy can cause difficulties for universities at first, but it will be then their motivation.

Hoang Minh Son: Chau’s opinion is absolutely right. There are several things to attract young PhD degree holders to come back home.

First of all, we should see what they are interested in. From 2016 the Hanoi University of Technology started to change its recruitment mechanism.

Previously, we recruited new staff every two years but now we recruit lecturers regularly. It means that we have public recruitment information for the positions we need until we find the suitable ones.

The second factor that I find very important to young people is that they need the position, conditions, and working environment where they can promote their ability and make a contribution.

The third thing is we must have policies to support them in the early period when they have just come back, perhaps a grassroots research project worth a few hundred million VND within two years so that they can start their career.

The state can spend hundreds of thousands of US dollars to send them abroad to get a PhD degree so it is not very difficult to support them one or two years more.

“Thu hút người tài bằng lương sẽ thất bại”

Prof. Ngo Bao Chau

For example, with the strong universities of Vietnam such as the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Mr. Nha can ask Mr. Son to turn the university into a strong university in East Asia or Southeast Asia in the next five years, then immediately Mr. Son will have to have solutions or gather talents of not only Vietnam but the world.

Secondly, Mr. Nha has to defend Mr. Son because during the process of renovation, Son will have to violate the old policies and mechanisms and at that time he must be protected. I think these are the two important things.

Minister Phung Xuan Nha: Mr. Chau hit right on my orientation in attracting overseas Vietnamese talent.

We not only need to attract new doctorates. I really want to target overseas Vietnamese scientists. They are very experienced, and behind them is a network of many international scientists.

So I emphasize attracting scientists who are highly qualified and experienced. Even when they return home for a very short time their move can still make a strong impact on others.

Regarding the method, we must go in a specific direction.

For example, with the Hanoi University of Science and Technology of Mr. Son, if I instruct you to conduct autonomy then 5 or 10 years later Son has to define the position of his school on the map of universities of science and technology in the region.

To achieve this goal, what does he need, including policy?

Son himself will have to take the initiative to find talent.

If we try to attract talent by salary, it will be difficult or even a failure.

In the current situation when our budget is limited, we cannot spread investment so we focus our investment, first of all in connection with foreign laboratories.

For example, if Son proposes to build a stem cell laboratory, with the participation of two overseas Vietnamese scientists in Japan who are very good at this technology or have such a lab, I will agree immediately. Through this laboratory we can attract them to work in Vietnam.

We should offer good working conditions and environment rather than high salary or position. Son said that we should give dozens of thousand USD to young doctors but I think this is unsustainable. The important thing is employment opportunities.

Prof. Ngo Bao Chau: I agree with the minister but there are a few different ideas in inviting foreign experts to Vietnam.

If we want to develop biotechnology then we have to find two biological experts and invite them to work for us. Some agencies have done this but I think it is highly possible for them to fail.

Why? Because even if we can invite foreign experts to Vietnam, we do not have Vietnamese people who can take advantage of what they bring to Vietnam, and we will fail.

I would like to share the methods of operation of the Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics.

Each year the Institute has 60 foreign guests. With a modest budget as the Minister knows, the Institute can only cover accommodation and food spending for them and in some rare cases, we cover their airfares. However, they still come to Vietnam and they are ready to return because during their time in Vietnam their work progresses. 

In fact, I did not write the invitation letters to foreign guests; local groups of scientists did this task. Our institute only checked and if it was okay, we invited them to Vietnam to work with the groups. The Institute is responsible for negotiating with the guest.

Most of these scientists went to Vietnam as volunteers so they didn't require that all kind of their spending must be covered by the Vietnamese side. It is important that we organize a team who can work with them.


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