A teacher at a vocational training school in Lang Son Province provides IT training to young people
There is no such thing as easy money, but no one could tell that to Hoang Minh Duc before the police shut down his pirated DVD and CD business.
The son of a poor family living a bare existence running a tea stand, Duc was riding high, spending the ill-gotten gains from his illegal business on karaoke and dancing.
However, his dreams of lifting himself and his family out of poverty came crashing down when the police shut down his business.
For a poor, unskilled 23-year-old, there seemed to be no legal path to success or prosperity, and he was resigned to a life of part-time menial labour.
However, all that changed when an official introduced him to the unique, three month Plan-Labs vocational training programme, which taught him that only education could legally lift him from his position.
It was a lesson he grasped with both hands.
"Now I am spending all the money I have for additional training," he said.
Like many of Viet Nam’s 200 other vocational training schools, the free Plan-Labs programme helps students learn marketable skills such as basic computer usage, mechanics and English.
What sets the Plan-Labs programme apart is its focus on attitude and communication skills, which are highly valued in the service industry.
"The Plan-Labs training courses are designed to match the market’s demands," said deputy director of Viet Nam’s Vocational Training General Department, Nguyen Tien Dung. "They are good because they provide not only professional skills, but also communication and life skills to learners."
In one of the school’s classrooms at the Dong Kinh private school on Tam Chinh Street, more than 30 students like Duc attentively listened to their instructor train them how to deliver a sales pitch.
The teacher asked one of the students, 21-year-old Nguyen Thi Sau, to write a letter to a company director to introduce a product that she wanted to sell. After she was finished, the trainer asked the class what they thought of Sau’s effort.
Not enough intensity, they said.
"They told me to be stronger in persuading the customer to believe in me and my product," Sau explained.
Besides basic marketing training, Duc and Sau’s course also taught them how to be more comfortable with customers.
These lessons are woven into a course schedule that also includes basic computer literacy and spoken English.
"I now feel more confident when I meet people, who before I would have difficulty greeting or shaking hands with," Duc said. "I also feel I have a future doing direct sales, something I never thought I could do before."
Modelled after the Plan-Labs programme in India, the school is a co-operative effort between Plan, an international NGO, and the Reddy’s Foundation of India.
Since the first Livelihood Advancement Business School (Labs) centre was established in Ha Noi last year, about 150 young people from poor backgrounds and with little education have completed training courses in IT, sales, hospitality and customer relations, and about 200 more are set to graduate soon.
One of the key elements of the programme is the one-month apprenticeship, which can lead to permanent employment after the programme is finished if the employer is satisfied with the work of the trainee.
Of the 150 graduates, 80 per cent of the students have found permanent employment in the service industry.
Duc’s teachers are currently trying to secure him an apprenticeship doing direct sales at the Big C supermarket.
However, with his new-found respect for the power of education, he is already looking beyond the supermarket.
With the skills he has learned, he hopes to gain entrance into a university and eventually open a business to lift him and his family out of poverty for good.
The power of education has given him reason to dream again.
VNS - (11/04/2005)