High-Tech Agriculture Vocational Training in Vietnam

High-Tech Agriculture Vocational Training in Vietnam

Published: 2023.09.09
Accepted: 2023.09.05
38
Researcher
Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS)

ABSTRACT

High-tech agriculture has contributed to saving costs, increasing productivity, improving the quality of agricultural products and protecting the environment. However, it is the low quality of human resources that is a barrier to the development of high-tech agriculture in Vietnam. According to recent studies, the main reason is that the training in high-tech agriculture is facing many shortcomings, for example, they have not focused on training production techniques according to traditional occupations and lack of training in new jobs that require high technology application. Vocational training programs are mainly about disseminating knowledge rather than introducing new techniques in the preservation, processing and consumption of agricultural products. Moreover, the training method focuses on classroom rather than practical instruction. In addition, infrastructure and equipment are out dates and inappropriate. To overcome these limitations, we propose solutions including accurately forecasting the demand for high-tech agricultural apprenticeships; raising awareness about the role and responsibility of high-tech agricultural vocational training; innovating training content and methods; mobilize the participation and contributions of stakeholders in high-tech agricultural vocational training; and strengthen state management of high-tech agricultural vocational training.

Keywords: Vocational training, Agriculture, High-tech

INTRODUCTION

Agriculture and rural areas in Vietnam have undergone significant and comprehensive changes since the implementation of economic reforms. Thanks to the application of advanced technology in agricultural production and business, including mechanization, automation, biotechnology, computerization, etc, the reform objectives have been archived. Besides, it also helps producers/farmers save costs significantly, increase productivity, and more effectively, improve the quality of agricultural products and especially protect the environment. There are many facilities that have applied high technology and modern equipment to production, and at the same time, they cooperate with other stakeholders to create value chain of agricultural products not only from production to processing, but also from domestic consumption to export. This has contributed to promoting the development of high-tech agriculture rapidly, increasing the added value of products, creating more jobs for producers/farmers, and improving the lives of rural people to contribute to poverty alleviation.

Recently, many localities across the country have strongly developed high-tech agricultural production models in all fields of cultivation, animal husbandry and aquaculture. By the end of 2021, Vietnam has twelve high-tech agricultural production areas recognized by localities and fifty-one high-tech agricultural regions recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Song Ha, 2022). It is a scientific and technological process that contributes to over 30% of added value in agricultural production, 38% in the production of plant varieties and livestock, reducing the loss of agricultural products, especially for rice to less than 10% (Ministry of Information and Communications, 2021).

Besides the positive results, high-tech agriculture is still facing many difficulties in many localities with small production models, low investment in agriculture, lack of land fund, and unstable consumption market, and especially limited human resources which have caused a serious shortage of a highly qualified labor force with access to advanced technology in high-tech agricultural production. The low quality of human resources makes the productivity of many new crops equal to only 70% of the world average, the labor productivity of the agricultural sector is only 38% of the labor productivity of the economic sectors and this has an impact significantly on labor productivity in Vietnam (Nguyen Tung Phong et al., 2017). In addition, the low quality of labor not only leads to low quality agricultural products causing difficulties in consumption, but also reduces the value of agricultural products and affects the income of farmers. For that reason, it is extremely necessary to effectively expand vocational training research to meet the needs of developing high-tech agriculture.

In 2009, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 1956/QD-TTg on "Vocational training for rural workers until 2020" and implemented it in localities from 2010. According to the report of the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, by the end of 2019, the whole country has over 9.2 million rural workers with vocational training at all levels; in which, over 60% of rural workers learn non-agricultural vocational training to change their jobs and over 35% of rural workers are trained in agricultural occupations to continue working in agriculture with higher productivity and income (Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, 2020).

However, there are many shortcomings in agricultural vocational training across the country, such as: (i) New agricultural vocational training is focused on training in traditional production techniques, not on high-tech agriculture. Agricultural vocational training for rural workers is still mainly training for those who are currently working in agriculture and continue to do their old jobs after training; (ii) The new vocational training program only stops at disseminating knowledge, processes and technical measures of plants and animals. The training program has not yet introduced new high technology into the process of the agricultural value chain such as production, preservation, processing and trading; (iii) The main training method is still teaching theory in class, not focusing on practice at the production place; (iv) Other limitations such as infrastructure of vocational training network; interest in survey training needs; assessment, mostly part-time teachers, programs and curricula for occupations in agricultural production application of high technology, all of which are not enough and have not been given certain attention. In addition, synchronous mechanization and agricultural production according to standards and regulations is still low, especially linking production along the value chain; and the combination between the training institution and employer is not good.

The article aims to clarify the theoretical issues of high-tech agricultural vocational training, along with the advantages and limitations of the policy of agricultural vocational training in general and high-tech agricultural vocational training in particular. Based on the above issues, some policy suggestions are proposed to develop high-tech agricultural vocational training in Vietnam.

Research method

Secondary data and information used in this article are mainly collected from relevant published studies or reports in scientific journals and official websites of Ministries and sectors. In addition, statistics on the current status of agricultural labors’ agricultural vocational training results are compiled from reports of the General Statistics Office, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The information is analyzed mainly by means of economic statistics.

Overview of vocational training in high-tech agriculture

High-tech agriculture

The concept of high-tech agriculture has been used as smart farming or precision farming by countries around the world. According to Gebbers & Adamchuk (2010), high-tech agriculture is understood as agriculture with the integration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into farming systems to increase productivity, profits, and reduce the workload of farmers.  The high-tech agricultural technologies can potentially help to reduce the undesirable impacts of extreme weathers and climate change on agriculture. It is operated on a platform where monitoring information is provided via satellite and all automatic control is carried out through highly mechanized infrastructures.

Zachariah (2019) argues that high-tech agriculture relies on information and technologies to be able to determine the amount of nutrients that crops, and livestock are provided to create sustainable effects on economic, social and environmental aspects. The application of high-tech in agriculture aims to increase productivity and quality of agricultural products, thereby improving the competitiveness of products (Duong Nam Ha et al., 2021). Modern techniques in agriculture include genetically modified crops, micropropagation, hybrid production, drip irrigation and fertilization, integrated pest management, organic farming, and soilless crop cultivation, growing plants in greenhouses, rapid diagnosis of “virus” diseases, advanced spraying methods, post-harvest and preservation technology (Le Linh, 2020).

In Vietnam, the concept of high-tech agriculture is given in the “Law on High Technology” as follows: “High technology is a technology with a high content of scientific research and technological development. It is integrated from modern scientific and technological achievements to create products with quality, outstanding features, high added value, and environmentally safe, and it plays an important role shaping into a new manufacturing or service industry or the modernizing of an existing one” (National Assembly, 2008).

High-tech agriculture is a modern farming method that not only reduces cost, increases product value, and is environment-friendly and safe, but also changes production methods from traditional to modern. In which biotechnology plays a very important role in application of high technology to agriculture, it is applied in the selection and breeding of high yielding, high quality, and resistant plants and animals (Government of Vietnam, 2012). Moreover, high-tech agriculture also pays great attention to advanced biotechnology, farming and preservation; automation technology; and new agricultural materials (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2017).

Do Kim Chung (2021) pointed out the basic characteristics of high-tech agriculture, which includes the organic and unlimited combination of physical technology, biotechnology, management technology, operating through the 4.0 technology platform, digitizes and realize business activities from farm production to consumers, automate and upgrade operating system between the real and virtual worlds; and ensure a continuous, efficient and sustainable agri-food value chain.

The synthesis of the above points of views shows that high-tech agriculture is a type of agriculture that applies new and advanced technologies to production, processing and business in order to create a breakthrough in agricultural productivity and quality. Moreover, it also satisfies the increasing needs of the society and ensures sustainable agricultural development.

High-tech agricultural vocational training

Occupation is a field of labor activities in which, through training, people acquire knowledge and skills to create material or spiritual products to meet social needs through training (Do Minh Cuong and Mac Van Tien, 2004). The term "vocational" is considered to be an activity, or a specific type of human labor, that is regular in terms of human skills and techniques in order to find a means of living (Nguyen Van Dai, 2012 followed by Bui Hong Dang, 2017). Accordingly, the agricultural occupation is understood as the work that people achieve in the agricultural field due to experience or training that they have to meet the practical requirements (Dinh Thi Thu Ha, 2012). Hi-tech agriculture is a collection of workers with habits of skills and techniques in agriculture who can apply new advances to create a breakthrough in production and processing (productivity and quality of agricultural products) as well as in the consumption of agricultural products to satisfy human needs.

According to recent studies, in many developing countries they have come up with a solution to promote the application of high-tech agriculture, which is the dissemination of knowledge at undergraduate and graduate levels or training and fostering knowledge for employees in economic organizations. According to Meinzen-Dick et al. (2003), in order to apply high-tech agriculture, policy makers have focused on training farmers in technological knowledge because they understand that lack of knowledge is a great obstacle.

Vocational training is an activity and apprenticeship in order to prepare the necessary conditions so that people can create their own jobs, find jobs or have the opportunity to improve the quality of the labor process and advance in the professional industry (National Assembly, 2014). Agricultural workers receive vocational training through vocational education programs with levels from elementary, intermediate, college and other programs in two types which are: formal training and professional training. Actors participating in agricultural vocational training include vocational education centers, intermediate schools, colleges, enterprises, agencies, organizations and individuals eligible to participate in vocational training.

In Vietnam, there is no document that fully explains the concept of high-tech agricultural vocational training so far. From the concept of vocational training in the Law on Vocational Education 2014 and the theory of high-tech agriculture, high-tech agricultural vocational training can be understood as training and apprenticeship activities to help learners acquire knowledge and skills in the application of automation, mechanization, information and communication technology, materials technology, biology, etc. in all stages of production, processing and consumption of agricultural products.

High-tech agricultural vocational training has specific characteristics such as: (1) Derived from the needs of learners (Mac Van Tien, 2009) about knowledge enhancement, education vocational training program, time and place to study theory and practice, time to learn each content, etc. (Tran Viet My, 2018); (2) Emphasize linking theory with practice (Nguyen Van Luong & Nguyen Van Song, 2021). During the training process, learners learn theory associated with practice to understand the process of production, processing and consumption of agricultural products in a scientific way; (3) Vocational training in high-tech agriculture must be diversified to meet the continuous change of technology in agriculture from the fields of production to the fields of consumption and logistics; (4) Enterprises and cooperatives play an important role in vocational training in high-tech agriculture. The participation of enterprises and cooperatives contributes to reducing training costs from the public sector (Le Thi Xuan et al., 2019).

Vocational training in high-tech agriculture in Vietnam

Human demand for high-tech agriculture

In the process of industrialization and modernization of the economy, in terms of labor structure, there is a large shift in labor force from the agricultural sector to the non-agricultural sector, and agricultural labor tends to decrease in both quantity and proportion in the total social labor force. For instance, the average agricultural labor force decreased by 1.1 million people per year in the period 2016 – 2019, from 22.20 million in 2016 to 18.83 million in 2019 (My Thanh, 2021). In 2020, labor in the agriculture (agro-forestry-fishery) sector accounted for 33.1%, down by 29.1% compared to 2000 and down by 1.4% compared to 2019. The percentage of laborers working in the AF sector is quite high in mountainous and coastal areas. According to GSO, in 2020, it accounts for about 67.9% in the Central Highlands, 55.4% in the Northern Midlands and Mountains, and 38.5% in the Mekong Delta. Although agricultural labor accounts for more than one-third of the country’s labor force, it is still mainly workers with low qualifications and skills, and the proportion of trained workers makes up only 4.0% (GSO, 2020). Besides, agricultural and forestry workers are facing the trend of rapid aging, Nguyen Van Vi (2022) pointed out that, the proportion of rural workers in the Mekong Delta under 35 years old decreased from 45.5% (in 2013) to 38.9% (in 2018), the proportion of workers over 50 years old increased from 20.7% to 26.8%, of which agriculture has the proportion of workers under 35 years old decreasing from 37.4% to 26.2% and the proportion of workers over 50 years old increased from 24.1% to 34.1%. This situation makes the labor productivity in Vietnam's agricultural sector the lowest of all economic sectors in Vietnam and much lower than that of other countries in the region.

From the statistical table, it can be seen that there is a clear difference between the labor productivity of the agricultural sector and the industrial and service sectors. Specifically, the agricultural sector has the lowest labor productivity, out of the 20 surveyed industries. It only reached US$1,863/person/year, about 40.5% compared to the total labor productivity of the whole society (US$4,604/person/year), about 35.4% compared to the labor productivity of the industry sector, and about 27.8% compared to service sector labor productivity.

According to a recent report, Vietnam’s agricultural labor productivity is the lowest in Asia. In the ASEAN region, Vietnam's agricultural labor productivity is lower than that of Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines by nearly 12 times, 2.1 times and 1.8 times, respectively (Doan Huong Quynh & Tran Thanh Thu, 2021). Domestically, agriculture - forestry - fishery is the industry with the lowest labor productivity among economic sectors (Communist Review, 2019).

The limitations on qualifications and skills of agricultural workers have really become barriers to the development of high-tech agriculture. Tran Tho Dat and To Trung Thanh (2020) assert that digital technology has a positive impact on the labor productivity of the agricultural sector and the labor productivity of the agricultural sector will have significant changes if it invested in technology and widespread use of high-tech in agriculture.

Policy on high-tech agricultural vocational training in Vietnam

Policy system related to high-tech agricultural vocational training

When implementing Decision No. 1956/QD-TTg by approving the project "Vocational training for rural workers until 2020", the Government and related ministries/sectors have issued a series of policies on training, vocational training in general and agricultural vocational training in particular for rural workers.

Table 2. Policy system promulgated by the Government and Ministries/sectors on vocational training for rural workers.

 

Name of policy document

Content related to high-tech agricultural vocational training

2009

Decision 1956/QD- TTg dated November 27, 2009 (Decision 971/QD-TTg dated July 1, 2015, amending and supplementing Decision 1956) approving the project "Vocational training for rural workers until 2020"

Specifying only the target number of employees trained in agriculture for each period; Specifying policies to support vocational training institutions, vocational teachers and apprentices; Regulations on diversification of agricultural vocational training institutions (such as vocational schools, enterprises, cooperatives, community learning centers, etc.

2010

Decision 295/QD-TTg in 2010 approving the Project “Subsidiary support” female vocational training and job creation in the period 2010 - 2015"

"Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: coordinate in implementing and supplementing relevant activities of the Scheme into agricultural, forestry and rural extension programs, fishery, and vocational training for rural workers”.

2016

Decision 5480/QD-BNN-KTHT in 2016 approving the Plan of agricultural vocational training for rural workers in the period 2016-2020

Specifying the primary, target, occupations and training forms, including mentioning the selection of agricultural occupations for training in association with each major commodity production region, associated with production and consumption; high-tech and safety products for food hygiene and safety

2017

Decision 1952/QD-LDTBXH 2017 on the implementation plan of “Improving the quality of vocational training for rural workers” under the National Target Program on agricultural development in the period 2016-2020

Focusing on contents such as developing programs, developing teachers, strengthening facilities, and building vocational training models in general and agricultural vocational training in particular. (Agriculture training according to Decision 5480/QD-BNN-KTHT)

2020

Decision No. 2246/QD-BNN-KTHT on Promulgating the implementation plan of Resolution No. 1033-NQ/BCSD dated April 20, 2020, of The Party Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on innovation and quality improvement of agricultural vocational training for rural workers in the 2021-2025 period.

Approving specific activities related to agricultural vocational training serving the development of high-tech agriculture, synchronous mechanization, processing, production linkage along the value chain, safety certification; professions in farm management, enterprises, cooperatives and services in service of agricultural production and business (review and identify the list of occupations and develop training curriculums and lectures).

 Source: Synthesized from the Law Library, 2022

Synthetic results show that, even policy documents on vocational training for rural workers for the period 2010 - 2020 have been issued, the content and implementation of policies on training are still limited. There are not many agricultural occupations (except for some contents incorporated in Decision 1956/QD-TTg, Decision 1952/QD-LDTBXH, Decision 295/QD-TTg and documents of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development). Regarding agricultural vocational training, policy documents have not identified agricultural occupations associated with local key products, especially occupations associated with high-tech agricultural development, for example, apply information technology in agricultural production and business, manage finance and marketing, develop production plans to meet the requirements of domestic and export markets, manage the supply chain of agricultural products from production, harvesting, preliminary processing, preservation, transportation, processing and consumption of products, and sale online, etc.

Achievements in high-tech agricultural vocational training

After 10 years of implementing Decision 1956/QD-TTg, the network of vocational training institutions for rural workers has developed throughout the country, especially in agricultural occupations. The number of establishments participating in agricultural vocational training for rural workers nationwide reached 2,510, of which the main centers was vocational training and continuing education centers accounting for 47%. In the period of 2010-2020, the whole country has trained 2.84 million out of 9.2 million turns of rural laborers to learn agricultural vocational training, making up about 30% of the total. According to the Final Report of Vocational Training Scheme under Decision 1956/QD-TTg of Hanoi city, Ho Chi Minh city, Lam Dong province, 2020, there are some localities with outstanding achievements leading in high-tech agricultural production such as Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong, and Hanoi with the rate of 69.8%, 51.9% and 65.1%).

According to the survey data of the Department of Economic Co-operation Economy and Rural Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2020, it shows that the percentage of workers working in the AFF sector in rural areas, has a very low need for vocational training (the national average is 1.45%, of which the Mekong River Delta has the highest rate 2.95%, and while the Red River Delta has the lowest rate 0.85%). This can show the young laborers’ unwillingness to work in agriculture. The proportion of rural workers receiving vocational training support compared to the total number of workers working in the agricultural sector is still limited, for example the Red River Delta makes 0.74%, the Mekong Delta accounts for 2.92% and the national average is 1.36%. In addition, according to the statistics, out of the total number of employees receiving vocational training support, laborers trained in the direction of high technology to work under contracts of enterprises account for a very small proportion, the national average is 6.58%, of which the Southeast region is the lowest proportion about 0.14%.

Limitations in vocational training in high-tech agriculture

Recently, training for rural workers in general and agricultural vocational training in particular has achieved remarkable success especially in the 10 years of implementing Decision 1956/QD-TTg. The number of trained workers has increased and they have applied knowledge to production after vocational training which contributes to the increasing labor productivity and improving workers' incomes. However, the agricultural vocational training for the development of high-tech agriculture still has many shortcomings, which are:

(1) Policy makers have not really focused on high-tech agricultural vocational training. The evidence is that the content of high-tech agricultural vocational training has not been mentioned in the policy documents on vocational training;

 (2) Survey on training needs, career orientation and job creation for workers after vocational training has not been focused in many localities. Therefore, agricultural vocational training has not come from the needs of the labor market, but mainly follows the movement or teaches traditional techniques;

(3) Agricultural vocational training in localities only focus on production (cultivation, animal husbandry, fisheries) but has not paid attention to other stages of the value chain such as processing and consumption of products;

(4) Many vocational training centers lack high-tech agricultural practice facilities hence learners mainly learn theory, not practice after learning;

(5) The state budget for agricultural vocational is small and the mobilization of resources from enterprises, cooperatives, farms, other socio-economic organizations and apprentices in vocational training high-tech agriculture is very limited.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

In the agricultural and rural development strategy for the period of 2021 - 2030 and a vision to 2050, the goal is to build Vietnamese agriculture into a modern, efficient, and environmentally friendly sector (Government, 2022). In order to increase the application of high-tech in agricultural production and business, it requires a workforce with knowledge and skills in technology, therefore the training of high-tech agriculture needs to be properly invested.

In fact, the percentage of trained agricultural workers tends to increase, but is still very modest. Labor productivity in the agricultural sector has increased but is still the lowest in all sectors of the economy and much lower than that of other countries in the region. Vocational training activities in the period of 2010 - 2020 have had many positive results, but there are still many limitations such as not really paying attention to high-tech agricultural vocational training from policies to programs and contents, and not equipping facilities for training.

Stemming from that situation, in order to develop high-tech agricultural vocational training to meet the needs of practice, the solutions that need to be concerned by the Government, ministries/sectors and localities in the coming period are:

  1. Forecasting accurately the demand for high-tech agricultural vocational training: The demand for high-tech agricultural vocational training needs to be determined based on the agriculture and rural development strategy, especially based on the demand of high-tech for key agricultural products at national and provincial levels;
  2. Strengthening publicity and raising awareness of the whole society about the role of high-tech agricultural vocational training in creating jobs on the spot, increasing incomes and improving the quality of human resources for the development of the high-tech agricultural sector;
  3. Renovating the content and organizational form to improve the quality of high-tech agricultural training, focusing on new knowledge and business skills to meet the requirements of high-tech agriculture; Implement vocational training in high-tech agriculture according to the needs of the labor market (enterprises, cooperatives, farms, etc.), linking training with job creation and technology transfer;
  4. Mobilizing the participation of stakeholders (agricultural extension agencies, vocational education institutions, enterprises, cooperatives, farms) in vocational training activities.; Integrating high-tech agricultural vocational training with local socio-economic development programs and production and business activities of enterprises;
  5. Strengthening cooperation between relevant ministries/sectors, especially between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs in state management of high-tech agricultural vocational training, from developing strategies to mobilizing resources, organizing the implementation, inspection, monitoring and evaluation of the quality of high-tech agricultural vocational training activities; and
  6. Concentrating the state budget and mobilizing resources from the private sector (enterprises, cooperatives, farms, learners and social organizations) to increase investment in vocational training in high-tech agriculture.

In summary, the Government needs to have solutions to strengthen the capacity of training and information dissemination on high-tech agriculture for cooperatives, enterprises, and farmer households. Besides, the review of policies to reduce overlap is also very urgent.

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