Intel and Portland
State Train Engineers
in Vietnam


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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

In October 2010, Intel opened its largest computer chip assembly and test plant in the world in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Viewed as a major boon to the developing nation’s industrial infrastructure, the billion-dollar facility is expected to create thousands of tech-industry jobs, including up to 900 engineering positions. And that’s the problem.

As you might expect in a nation so new to technology-intensive manufacturing, Vietnam has a scarcity of engineering graduates skilled in problem-solving, communications, and teamwork. To recruit the kind of employees it needs, Intel has turned to a familiar partner for help with an innovative educational program.

In collaboration with Portland State University ("home of the Vikings"), Intel launched the Intel Vietnam Study Abroad Program in 2009. The $2 million-per-year investment will bolster the company’s Vietnamese workforce with dozens of engineers who have earned a coveted U.S.-accredited bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering.

As the Intel Vietnam Scholars complete their degree requirements over two years at PSU’s Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, Intel hopes they gain skills and experience that will rub off on their future colleagues at the new facility, where they have agreed to work for at least three years after graduation.

Portland Oregon

Portland, Oregon

The scholars, selected from among Vietnam’s very best third-year engineering students, pay only their round-trip airfare to Portland. Intel picks up the rest – tuition, room and board, books, fees and living expenses. The program is unique because it exposes students to intensive, career-focused learning at such an early stage in their undergraduate studies.

In the first year, out of a pool of 400 applicants, the program accepted 28 students, eight of whom were pursuing ME degrees.

Why Portland State?

With sizeable facilities in the Portland metropolitan area and more than 15,000 employees, Intel is Oregon’s largest private employer. PSU is the state’s largest public university by enrollment, and one of only two with graduate and undergraduate programs in both mechanical and electrical engineering. The new program is just the latest example of how PSU has evolved its educational and research programs to meet the changing needs of Intel and the other tech-driven companies in Oregon’s "Silicon Forest."

In addition to the financial boost from out-of-state tuition revenues for a significant number of new Vietnamese Vikings, PSU benefits from the program in many ways. It has brought engineers and English teachers together to develop innovative ways to teach written and verbal communication skills specifically geared toward an engineering work environment. It has enlivened the existing Vietnamese community on campus and around the city. And it is further solidifying the bond between PSU and Intel, whose expansion plans also include another major Portland plant.

The program begins with an eight-week summer preparatory program including intensive English, culture, and engineering courses that set the stage for what’s to follow. During this unique bridge session, PSU faculty must quickly assess the students to determine the right mix of new and review material needed to prepare them for their fall classes. During the summer between the two full academic years at PSU, students return to Vietnam to work as Intel interns.

Outcomes 

The first crop of Intel Vietnam Scholars made mostly A’s during their first year of coursework. In addition to their formal studies, they also took part in customized training sessions at nearby Intel facilities, and were paired with mentors to help them with non-academic issues such as cultural adjustment, sightseeing, recreation, and interfacing with the local Vietnamese community. Now in their second year, the students are playing a vital mentoring role for this fall’s incoming crop of new scholars.

Michael MacRae is an independent writer.

 

As you might expect in a nation so new to technology-intensive manufacturing, Vietnam has a scarcity of engineering graduates skilled in problem-solving, communications, and teamwork.

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March 2011

by Michael MacRae, ASME.org