Training the new generation of mechanics in Vientiane

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Back to 2006.
Vientiane, capital of Laos has the greatest concentration of urban poverty in the country, with little or no access to basic rights for the most marginalized people. With limited skills and a changing economy, many young people in the city are struggling to find secure employment and instead turn to unstable sources of income for survival: scavenging, begging, selling souvenirs to tourists, sex work…
Expensive training fees or social stigma makes education and vocational training leading to employment inaccessible to street-involved and marginalized youth.

School of mechanics – school of Life

Our first mechanics workshop opened its door in Vientiane in 2006 to address this issue and provide quality vocational training to marginalized youth and empower them to find gainful employment. It has been training about 25 students every year.

The teacher, Khamtay, teaches his 15-24 years old students bicycle and basic motorbike repair, as well as basic math, Lao (most students speak Hmong, a local language) and English. Students are also learning a lot about customer service as they are practicing on real customers’ motorbikes with the help of Khamtay.

I have been working for Friends for 6 years and I’m very proud of my job. I like to teach students and help them change their life. It’s amazing to see how they evolve: when they start, they usually don’t know how to read and write and are very shy, not used to meeting new people. Here they learn about mechanics but also about life.

Khamtay – mechanics teacher

In addition to skills-training, students are also receiving life-skills education and job-readiness training to have all skills required for employment. As most of them are from rural provinces, we provide them with a housing option: a dormitory they share with the other vocational training students. Meeting new people and living with students from different backgrounds allow them to open their mind and discover another lifestyle to the one they are used to.

I like the training a lot and I made a lot of new friends. I really enjoy living with them, I feel more free and happy than before! With the skills that I’m learning, I think I will be able to support my family. I will go back to my village to take care of them and I hope I can open my own mechanics shop

Leang*, 19 years old – student

From training to employment

As a lucrative business in Laos, motorcycle repair skills allow youth to easily acquire jobs, internships, apprenticeships or even start their own shop. After the 10 months training program, 100% of the students find a job!

Phonesavanh* is 20 years old and graduated from our training at the end of 2017. He is now working in a successful motorcycle repair shop in Vientiane.

I’ve been working here for 10 months now. I’m proud that I made it all the way. Now I can have my own salary and be independent: I can save money and support my family too.
Friends brought me a lot of good things! I even met my girlfriend when I was studying at the mechanics workshop, she was working in a nearby restaurant!

Phonesavanh, 20 years – graduate

His boss seems happy to have him too. He told us Phonesavanh is the 4th Friends’ graduates he’s hired:  “Friends’ graduates are very good employees. They are hard working, fast and efficient. Usually they stay with me for about three years until they have learned enough. Then they go back to their hometown to open their own shop.”

Time for him to hire newbies!

*Names have been changed to protect identity

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