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Migrant worker climbs company ladder

Loan (left) with head of LABS project, Tam.
Loan (left) with head of LABS project, Tam.

By Tran Thi Le, Communication Officer, Plan Vietnam and Pham Thi Thanh Tam, Coordinator LABS Program, Plan Vietnam

A graduate from Plan Vietnam's Livelihood Advancement Business School (LABS) hails the program as a life-changing experience.

Dinh Thi Loan, an IT graduate in 2005, had been struggling for years to make a living in Hanoi after moving to the city from a rural province after high school. She often worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week as a stone buffer, which left her hands bloody and sore but put just USD $30 in her pocket each month.

"Back then I was like an animal — not thinking, just doing, and running on pure adrenalin from one thing to the next," she recalled. "I had no hope for the future. I felt I was stuck in a trap and that the older I got, the less opportunities I would have."

Loan's fortunes changed, however, when she saw an advertisement for LABS — a program originally begun in India in by the Dr. Reddy Foundation and introduced to Vietnam by Plan in 2004.

Crucially, the course was free and at the application event Loan became even more inspired by the sight of an object that millions across the globe regard as a mundane item — a swivel office chair. Loan had never even seen one before. She recalled: "I vowed there and then I would someday get a job that would let me sit in a chair like that."

Loan enrolled in an IT course that focused on office administration and was soon offered a position with the Vietnamese company Viet Fast. She has been promoted twice and now works as a sales coordinator for distribution and investment company Phu Thai, earning almost seven times her salary as a stone buffer.

She said: "Words cannot express what LABS means to me. It has given me wings of hope and the foundations to make a decent life for myself."

So far, LABS has helped almost 3,000 people aged between 17 and 25 to find jobs in Vietnam, with the majority trained in hospitality, customer relations and sales and information technology services.