Day 11: Office Parks and Roman Numerals

To start, I’d like to say that this is my final blog post of the trip. Writing these each day has been a nice way to reflect on my experiences, and I’m certain that some day I’ll look back on them and remember Vietnam.

We met at 8AM today to go to Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP). After an hour drive we arrived and they took us into a big conference room for a presentation and a Q&A.

VSIP was founded with the cooperation of the Singapore and Vietnamese governments after Vietnam opened its gates to foreign investment. There are multiple parks like the one we visited in Vietnam, both in the north and the center of the country. However, the one we visited is the largest in area.

I learned that VSIP is not only an industrial park, but also has malls and places for workers to live. This is to the advantage of companies like II-VI, a glass manufacturing company we visited after lunch.

We visited the II-VI Vietnam branch, but the company is actually based in Pennsylvania with branches in Texas, Singapore, and China as well. The Vietnam branch has been here for about 12 years and was created for a few reasons, such as tax incentives, low labor costs, and the need to globalize to keep up with competitors. Vietnam poses its own unique challenges to II-VI, most notably worker turnover. Our presenter, the Chief Engineer and only American at the plant, told us that during Tet, a Vietnamese holiday, workers often go home and, instead of coming back to work the next week, stay at home for a few months. This obviously loses them their job and then they look for a new one after their few months at home. To counteract this, II-VI has created incentives to stay like paying for their travel to home or holding bonuses until after the holiday.

The workers they hire at II-VI are all Vietnamese and college graduates. Despite this, II-VI has to train each new worker, as their school education doesn’t completely prepare them for the specific tasks of the manufacturing plant. The workers make things like glass and car seat warmers, selling to clients such as militaries and consumer companies like Microsoft. II-VI has managed to get 10% of the market share by making their products better and/or cheaper. They also have been able to expand their product base and become a one-stop-shop to many companies looking for their services.

I left the last site visit tired but having learned a lot. VSIP showed me the future of business in Vietnam, and even a community that resembled a suburb, something that Ho Chi Minh City is lacking. II-VI, on the other hand, showed me a different type of business coming to Vietnam, one that requires a unique skill to work in.

Tomorrow we will play sports against the UEF students, make our final presentations, and have a goodbye dinner. Saturday at 3AM we will leave the hotel for the airport, and I’ll be arriving in Philadelphia near midnight Saturday. Vietnam has been a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m coming away from it knowing much more than I did only two weeks prior. These two weeks were fun, but I plan on studying abroad with Pitt again during my years in college. I can’t wait to see where Pitt takes me next!


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