Context: The School-to-Work-Transition Survey (SWTS) was conducted in two round (2012-2013 and 2015) by the ILO and the General Statistics Office of Viet Nam. The youth unemployment rate in Viet Nam in 2015 was 3.4 per cent, with no significant differences for young males and females. This figure is well below the average youth employment rate in South-East Asia of 12.4 per cent for the same year.

The share of Vietnamese youth who were Neither Employed nor in Education or Training (NEET), went up from 7.8 per cent in 2013 to 11.1 per cent in 2015. Along gender lines, the share of NEET was higher for young women, at 9.6 per cent, compared to young men, at 6.0 per cent. The SWTS attributes this to barriers young women face in accessing education and the relatively early age of family formation in Viet Nam. The SWTS shows a substantially faster transition from school to a stable job for young people with university education (7.3 months) than for those with secondary education (17.8 months). At the same time, mismatches between the education system and the labour market results in higher youth unemployment rates for those with tertiary education (4.7 per cent) compared to youth with secondary education (3.9 per cent). However, those with only primary education fair the worst, with an unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent). The difference between the unemployment rates and time in transition to a stable job can in part be explained by the quality of work those youth engage in. Persons with lower education become employed quickly in precarious, vulnerable employment, but take much longer than those with higher education to secure stable employment.

In 2015, more than half (58.6 per cent) of young workers in Viet Nam were engaged in paid employment, some 12.9 per cent were own-account workers and 21.7 per cent were unpaid family workers. The SWTS estimates that, in 2015, some 23.5 per cent of employed youth were undereducated for their job, while 26.0 per cent were deemed overeducated. Young people in Viet Nam were evenly employed among the three economic sectors: agriculture (33.3 per cent), industry (33.4 per cent) and services (32.6 per cent).

Implementation of programme/ initiative: REACH is an NGO established in 2008 whose goal is to enhance the employability of young people in Viet Nam, particularly those from low-income households. REACH provides training courses, lasting between 3 and 5 months, focused on the service industry, particularly the hospitality sector. Before the start of courses, REACH researches the environment and personal circumstances of each prospective trainee to ensure that courses adapt to their needs. About 20 per cent of the course curriculum is theoretical instruction with the remaining 80 per cent being practical on-the-job lessons. REACH courses also include “soft” and “life skills” components such as preparing a CV, problem-solving, self-confidence building, money management and English language training. Following their graduation, REACH follows former trainees for six months in order to support them in finding and maintaining their jobs. REACH trainers are expected to find job placement for 80 per cent of their students each year. REACH alumni are also integrated into the network and share experiences and information about existing vacancies with current trainees.

The average cost per student for REACH is approximately US$ 500 annually. Around 90 per cent of REACH revenues come from donations from international NGOs, philanthropic foundations and private firms worldwide. Donors include, inter alia, Save the Children, Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, Plan International, Stars Foundation, Epic Foundation, HSBC, JP Morgan, Hilton Worldwide and Project Inspire.

The organization has established partnerships with The British Council, Australian Aid, NGOs, civic society organizations and over 1,000 businesses. This network of businesses includes several international hotel chains, ICT companies, retail companies and firms in the service sector. Before a training course is developed, REACH contacts businesses to map new labour market trends, quantify emerging job opportunities and determine the specific needs of employers. REACH also engages its business network to provide life-skills training, on-the-job training and guest lectures. This approach reduces training costs for REACH while also empowering students to gain exposure to real job situations.

REACH’s philosophy is to “tackle the whole problem with the whole solution: grow people, skills and markets“. REACH achieves this through: 1) Fostering job skills as well as soft and life skills; 2) Providing a holistic service approach taking into consideration the diverse needs of youth; 3) Operating a market-driven, flexible and scalable model; 4) Directly involving industry in programmes; 5) Fostering an active and compassionate alumni community and; 6) Delivering sustainable and widespread impact with students’ families as direct beneficiaries of REACH’s programmes.

REACH has received multiple awards for its work and is featured in UNESCO-UNEVOC’s “Promising Practices in Technical Vocational Education and Training.

Main challenges:

The main challenge for REACH has been developing mechanisms to sustain the impact of its activities over the long-term.

Another challenge faced has been securing donor funding. As of 2017, 90 per cent of REACH’s revenue is derived from donors. The organization has resources to fund most of its activities for the next 2 years, albeit with some funding shortcomings. However, as REACH has become too dependent on donor funding, the organization has recognized the need to diversify the sources of funding and achieve greater financial sustainability. Different options are currently being explored (see below in Moving Forward).

Other challenges that REACH has encountered over the last few years include generating strong engagement from the business community, attracting highly qualified staff and fostering stronger collaboration with government agencies.

Results achieved: REACH trains over 1,100 young people per year for a wide range of potential jobs. In 2016, the rate of job placement within the first six months after graduation exceeded 80 per cent. Training courses offered by REACH include food and beverage service, cooking, beauty spa and makeup, hairdressing and nail art, housekeeping, sales and marketing, web and graphic design, and 3D modelling.

The programme originally started in Hanoi, Danang and Hue, but as of 2017, REACH has established training centres in five provinces in North and Central Viet Nam and is currently expanding to the South of the country (see below).The programme has also extended its target group to people living with HIV and trafficked women.

REACH’s Quality of Life survey indicates that, in 2015, over 84 per cent of the graduates surveyed said their quality of life had improved within 9 months of starting at REACH as well as a 600 per cent rise in their income.

Moving Forward: REACH is trying to expand and diversify its sources of funding, with the goal of becoming a self-sustainable social enterprise. In partnership with Accenture Netherlands, REACH is exploring options to increase its funding through a cost recovery scheme among trainees. The scheme will take into account the economic means of trainees and will waive fees for those with the fewest resources, but recover between 10 and 20 per cent from those students that are assessed as being able to afford it. Another option to be explored is to recover some costs from business partners that take REACH graduates.

Another relevant output of its partnership with Accenture Netherlands is “REACH in a Box,” a manual that reports on the lessons learned from the programme and that will serve as toolkit to facilitate its dissemination to other organizations and countries.

The organization also plans to establish enterprises whose profits would be reinvested in the training programme. These enterprises would also serve to provide a ground for the practical training of students. Among the planned enterprises, REACH has established a hairdressing and nail salon in late 2016 and plans to establish a hair salon chain by 2019.

Jointly-funded courses with businesses have helped to lower the cost per student for REACH. For instance, REACH offers a 3D-modelling course in partnership with German IT firm BR24. In 2017, REACH plans to launch an ICT coding course through a similar model supported by Microsoft, to provide a combination of cloud-based and classroom-based learning for students.

REACH is also planning to expand its geographical area of activity and set up a training centre in Ho Chi Minh City, in July 2017. There are also plans to start offering computer programming courses by the end of 2017.

Replicability: Several features of REACH’s model are unique and highly innovative, making the programme suitable for replicability elsewhere. The most innovative feature is the creation of a rapidly-scaling network of over 1,000 businesses across Viet Nam that play a direct role in the design, delivery and review of REACH’s programmes, and provide job opportunities for graduates.

The “REACH in a Box” manual has been used to replicate REACH’s model by different organizations and in different countries. For instance, Plan International has implemented programmes similar to REACH in more than 30 countries where Plan International has youth empowerment projects. Within ASEAN, several NGOs (e.g., M’Lop Tapang in Cambodia) have replicated REACH’s approach to promote youth employment.


Background Information on Viet Nam’s school-to-work transition (2012-2013 and 2015)

School-to-work transition Survey (SWTS) in Viet Nam, General Statistics Office of Viet Nam and International Labor Organization (ILO), published in 2016.—ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_537762.pdf

REACH VIETNAM official links

Official webpage:

Facebook webpage:

Twitter account:

Youtube account:

2016 Annual Report:

UNESCO-UNEVOC Promising Practices in TVET


This good practice was kindly prepared by Dr. Antonio Postigo

Project Details

Date: April 11, 2017

 Previous Next