Livelihood-Linked Vocational Education in Thailand
Although she’s just 23 years old, Meetee has been working to support her hill tribe family for more than 10 years and, unlike most people, has rarely had a weekend simply to relax and enjoy life.
Her life took a radical turn, however, when the headman of her village in Chiang Rai Province informed her that Plan Thailand was looking for stateless girls like her who were keen to participate in hotel management training at Chiangsaen International Institute for Skill Development (CIISD). Much to her delight, she, along with 29 other most-at-risk girls learned many new skills: “Teachers taught me what I needed for a career in hotel management,” she shared, “things like working in a restaurant, making beds, and cooking.”
PromotedAfter four months of free training at the institute and a two-month internship at SB hotel, Meetee found herself working at the front desk in the lobby of that same hotel and earning 7,500 baht (250 USD) per month.
For an uneducated girl who had spent four years cleaning, washing and helping out in the lobby and restaurant of that hotel, for the very same income the entire time, this was a huge promotion. Not only was Meetee better able to provide for her family, even to send her two younger sisters to school, but she also learned to read and write: “Sometimes, it was difficult, but the school provided knowledge step by step, so I learned easily.”
Hard and Soft SkillsThe pilot program that Meetee took part in was part of a collaborative effort between Plan Thailand and CIISD to provide marginalised and stateless youth with the vocational and entrepreneurial skills they need to earn a livelihood. The model employed—the Livelihood-Linked Vocational Education for Thailand (LIVE-Thai), a locally-adapted version of the Vietnamese Livelihood Advancement Business School (LABS)—is a comprehensive one: in addition to teaching technical skills, LIVE-Thai teaches the skills of life itself. It also bridges the supply and the demand sides of the equation, making girls “marketable” by developing their skills and knowledge and finding a suitable workplace for them.
The need for such a program was great. Because Thai law allows stateless people to work in just 27 occupations, most of which are male-dominated, girls are forced to work in exploitative situations, like at karoake bars or, in the worst-case scenario, in the sex trade. Plan Country Director Maja Cubarrubia said that Plan’s programme is designed to throw off cultural and legal constraints on girls’ working: “We hope that the vocational training program will provide knowledge and market acumen to the girls, thereby expanding their career choices and ensuring that their lives are better.”
Meetee was fortunate in that she did not find herself at the mercy of her employers. Still, she did make tremendous sacrifices. Because her parents could not afford to educate two children, they chose her brother, a choice she reflects upon: “I felt a bit sad, but I knew that my parent needed me to help them.” Her responsibilities increased when her brother married and left home and her parents’ health suffered.
Moving Up in the World of WorkMeetee took great pride in supporting her family despite that fact that, she “couldn't dream much for her future.” After a five-month stint at a small factory in Bangkok, she took a job close to home despite the fact that her monthly income plummeted more than one-third, from 3800 to 2500 (126-83 USD) baht. Illiteracy had made her desperate, she explained: “Any job that could earn money, I had to do.” After four years of selling cloth, she got an entry position in the hotel business.
Part of the reason behind Meetee’s impressive rise is the nature of the LIVE-Thai model that Plan is using in this training scheme. LIVE-Thai ensures that the competencies of the trainees are tailored precisely to the demands of the market and that they are updated as necessary. The model is also unique in its use of individual youth development plans, a periodic assessment of whether trainees have the soft skills they need to thrive in the workplace and business-to-youth networking, which nurtures connections through initiatives like shadowing and mentoring. A post-placement survey and alumnae association of graduates make sure girls settle in well to their job placements.
And settle in Meetee has. In fact, she is now very confident: “Although I am a stateless person, I have no more worries about my future because I have a good job.”
Learn more about Plan's work in Thailand