Last week my colleague Ashley Laracy and I gave a Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats (SWOT) workshop at Bac Thang Long college in Hanoi. We compared some of the findings another volunteer did in 2013 with the findings of my recent stakeholder interviews. For the past few weeks I’ve been speaking with deans, teachers, students, alumni and enterprise partners to find out how they view the college. I’ll be using this info to polish up the website and also for promotional purpuses. Bac Thang Long college is quite concerned right now about enrollment. There has been a recent government change in courses at colleges. Previously, people who failed the university entrance exams could take a one-year college course and then transfer into university. No longer. Now students have to complete a 2-year college course or simply work for three years before they can retry their university exams. This means Bac Thang Long is going to lose about 30 per cent of its enrollment since people will like just opt for working and saving up money before they try again.
As an outside observer I know there are many layers to the problemic onion which I am not party to. However, I was able to share what I found with the teachers and other staff at the workshop.
Here’s a little summary of my findings from teachers/students and alumni:
GENERAL STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
• Class schedules for workers.
• Regular pedagogy upgrading from international partner WUSC.
• Open, enthusiastic teachers.
• Practical experience for students (Guest experts, field trips, internships).
• Student services, financial assistance, career counseling, job placement.
• Partnerships with enterprises – internships/job placements.
• Teacher/student ratio.
• Courses tailored to needs of enterprise partners.
• Infrastructure – library access, access to computers/equipment.
• 3-year training for middle school graduates.
• Extra-curricular activities (dancing, soccer).
• College/teachers stay connected to alumni.
• No foreign language capacity training.
• Soft skill training needs expanding.
• Due to govt changes transfer program now obsolete.
• Not enough majors for middle-school student program.
• Criteria of BTL does not match criteria of partner (bank).
• Limited technology and equipment.
• Not up to date on some technology needs of enterprises.
• Some courses need to be more specialized (supermarkets)
Here’s what the enterprise partners said:
• A large pool of students that partner can profit from (bank).
• BTL events provide exposure for partner products (bank).
• BTL provides opportunity for partner to build goodwill in community (bank-scholarships).
• BTL provides opportunity to tap volunteer labour.
• Grads are large labour pool for Thang Long Park and 32 other parks (1,000 enterprises).
• Guest lectures from enterprise staff that prepare students for reality of workplace.
• Hard working, enthusiastic, disciplined students.
• Quick respond to suggestions for new, or improved, courses. Stays current with changes in the field (supermarkets).
• College staff stay connected with enterprises, post positions regularly.
• More loyalty with grad hires vs university grads.
• School relies on enterprises to provide equipment, this causes worry for enterprises and slows them down.
• BTL does not stay up to date on emerging needs of some enterprises. For instance electronics manufacturers and the making of touch screens.
• Cannot adapt to change in electronics field quickly.
• Students need more communication skills, especially those with local accents (call centre).
The participants then came up with their own solutions and wrote them on a flip chart which is currently being translated. I’ll share those findings when I get them. Not sure the goal was really understood, so we’ll see what they came up with.