REACH - empowering Vietnam's youth for a brighter future

REACH - empowering Vietnam's youth for a brighter future

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

REACH offers a focused 3 month vocational training program for Vietnam’s most disadvantaged youth. Post-graduation, REACH supports the students to find full time jobs that provide a secure steady income and ample growth opportunities. REACH uses an innovative, highly pragmatic and effective training model which incorporates the needs of underprivileged youth with local industry and labor market requirements. REACH wants to create a world in which every youth, regardless of education or background, has a chance to achieve their full potential and secure a full time job. The change starts by building confidence and skills within the individual, benefits the business environments they work in, and with their success, impacts a whole community.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Vietnam has just transitioned from a developing country to a lower middle income country. Because of this, many donors are pulling funding from Vietnam. Though generally the overall wealth of the country is growing rapidly, as often, it is the rich who are getting richer, and the poor who are getting poorer. As middle income and wealthy families thrive in this booming Vietnamese economy, the poor are becoming more marginalized. There are stark inequalities in access to education and the education system struggles to be relevant to employers needs. In Vietnam there is a social stigma against the disabled as well as those living with HIV. Even if they are fully capable, often they will not be considered for a job due to social stigma surrounding them. The disadvantaged youth that we are targeting usually have dropped out of school due to financial difficulties at home. They face extreme hardships such as relocation, face discrimination as ethnic minorities, or are socially marginalized because a family member is living with HIV. Some students have just returned from reform school or the army, and opportunities to find jobs are very difficult. Nguyen Duc Tho - F&B class Batch 15: “Before we moved to Hanoi, my biological father was not good to my mother and she was also sick all the time. Their marriage broke. My mom rented a small apartment for our family and ran her small business. I was 5 then. I couldn’t understand how hard it was for her to make our family get by. I dropped school at grade 9. I had to help my mom earn money by selling burning coal and looking after customer’s vehicles at some restaurants. Life was so hard then that I even didn’t imagine of going back to school. The first thing I learned at REACH was how to live happily. For such a long time, the only issue I cared was how to earn money to support my mom and our family. For the first time in a long time, I felt that I was cared for and respected. Now I’m working as a bartender at Lien Thai Binh Duong Company and Es restaurant at Trang Tien Plaza. I get a good salary and I’m quite confident at work and in life.”

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

REACH has been successful in helping thousands of disadvantaged youth find jobs because of its cost effectiveness. A small upfront investment of around $300 results in a student earning a steady income for life. Though there are many vocational training programs helping the poor, what makes REACH unique is that it focuses on the whole individual and yet can be easily scaled up. Each staff at REACH truly cares about the well-being of every youth and it is this strong relationship of encouragement and support that really transform lives. Currently there are many government run mass vocational training programs in Vietnam but they do not focus on the individual, graduating hundreds of students per class with no follow up and no accountability. Although other similar vocational programs such as the Hoa Sua school provide a similar training, it lasts at least 6 months. KOTO is another program but only takes around 50-100 students per year and train for nearly 2 years. Most disadvantaged youth cannot afford to spend 6 months in training when they could be earning money. This flexibility allows REACH to scale up quickly and expand to new regions rapidly, reaching more and more students each year. REACH is also innovative in that they meet the labor demands of the business by providing highly qualified employees while securing jobs for our students. Also the involvement of our strong business partners and our ever expanding alumni network also make REACH innovative as they provide input to help our training be more applicable as well as keep us updated of open positions.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The REACH program employs a high impact cost effective model that repeats every 4 months. The first month is spent on recruiting the right target group for our training program as well as finding jobs for recent graduates. All REACH staff participates to advertise, campaign, flyer, to ensure a careful selection of the right target students. Applicants go through interviews which are followed up by a home visit by the staff to ensure that the students do indeed meet the requirements of our target. The home visit also serves to build a relationship with the student and his family. Once enrolled, the student spends 13 to 15 weeks in class building technical skills, English skills, as well as life skills such as confidence building, communication, and work readiness. The facilitators not only teach the class but also are responsible for counseling, job placement, 6 months of follow up post-graduation, and alumni support. Our courses are taught by committed facilitators that have industry experience related to the course. Classes are kept at a small size so that each individual gets the attention they need to succeed. The Training Coordinator ensures quality control of the training by monitoring each facilitator and ensuring the curriculum is practical and applicable in the workforce. Business to Youth staff members focus on managing relationships with business partners who employ our students upon graduation. Currently REACH’s courses include Food and Beverage, IT and Web Design, Sales and Marketing, Housekeeping, Nail Art.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, HI

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Tam has been with REACH since its beginning in 2004, when it was still managed as a project under Plan International. She first started out as the Sales and Marketing facilitator with Batch 1 and then moved into the Business to Youth role and then project manager before becoming REACH Director. Within a few years her commitment and dedication to the program led her to lead the entire program as the Executive Director when it transitioned from a project to a local NGO, now called REACH. Through her years with REACH, Tam has seen both the students and the organization grow into things that she is immensely proud of. In each and every batch, no matter what her role has been, it was the special stories of students overcoming difficulties, super human efforts and wonderful relationships developing that inspired her to work even harder to ensure the success of REACH.

She recalls one of her students, Huy from Batch 3, who was born into poverty and came to Hanoi in search of a job only to find a job that paid him in meals only. When he came to REACH, he was a shy boy, lacking in confidence. After graduation he was hired by a large supermarket in Hanoi and today he is has been promoted to the head of his department. Because of his special relationship with REACH, he often employs our graduates and takes great care to keep REACH up to date of any opportunities. It is this type of love and care that keeps her motivated despite her busy schedule managing a rapidly growing organization.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Established in Hanoi in 2004, REACH has a unique history and proven track record. Formerly known as the Livelihood Advancement Business School, LABS was established as a project of Plan international, to fill the training gap for employers. Since its inception, REACH has achieved phenomenal growth. The number of students graduating each year has increased at an incredible rate, nearly doubling every year from the previous intake. The popularity of the courses at REACH is most likely due to an increasing awareness in the community about the program’s success; more than 80% of the students who graduate find employment. To keep up with the rate of demand, increasing the resources supporting the program was seen as imperative. So in early 2008, LABS decided to follow plans for expansion and become an independent local NGO. In July, LABS was given the new name of REACH. REACH is now an independently run organization with an entirely Vietnamese staff.

Success is measured by the number of students successfully placed in jobs 6 months post training graduation. REACH’s target is that at least 80% of graduated students get placed in employment per batch cycle (three batch cycles of 4 months each) per year. And that target has been met since 2004. Originally the program started with Hanoi in the North and Danang and Hue in the Central region. Now REACH has grown to multiple satellite centers that set up training programs in rural areas - other very needy areas of Vietnam (5 satellite centers). REACH has also extended the target group to people living with HIV and trafficked girls.

Currently REACH has trained a total of 6,032 students to date with plans to train an additional 2,100 students in 2012 and 2,500 in 2013. REACH's Quality of Life survey shows that 71% of students report an increase in their perception of power, choice, resources, security, and capability as well as a 600% rise in income.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001- 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

1) REACH is planning to become financially independent from donor funding over the next three years. REACH is currently undergoing a Cost Recovery Model analysis, exploring ways to become more sustainable and generate income. Thus REACH will evolve from a non-profit to a social enterprise by the end of three years. But this will happen in phases, with donor funding growing smaller each successive year as we pilot and test out the cost recovery plans throughout our offices in Vietnam.

2) REACH is also planning to expand into the southern region of Vietnam by setting up a permanent center in Ho Chi Minh City by early 2012. We are looking to enter into a new industry and pilot a skilled welding course. We are also working on an aggressive satellite center expansion in all regions.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

1) The biggest potential barrier to REACH is a lack of donor funding. Without donor money, REACH has no other way of running its programs. Currently this seems unlikely as many foundations and organizations have been very impressed with REACH results and the budget is secured for the next 2 years with many interested donors lined up but still REACH is too dependent on the source. Thus one of REACH’s strategic objectives this upcoming year is to become more financially sustainable – exploring creative ways to cover some of its costs. Currently REACH is in the process of working with pro-bono consultants form Accenture to come up with a Cost Recovery Model that can be piloted in Ho Chi Minh City.

2) But another barrier to the success of our programs is if businesses and students are unwilling to contribute to some of REACH’s costs. When REACH implements the Cost Recovery Model, we are not exactly sure how well received the new structure will be. Since our business partners that employ REACH students are accustomed to hiring our students without any fee in the past, it will be challenging ask them to take on extra costs moving forward. But REACH is currently undergoing research and analysis to come up with a feasible solution that will keep businesses and students happy while covering some of the training costs. We are holding workshops with several REACH business partners as well as another workshop with REACH students and alumni to elicit feedback on the Cost Recovery Model.

Tell us about your partnerships

Aside from our funding partners REACH has developed a number of strategic partnerships to contribute to the program quality and implementation. REACH has partnered with Accenture Netherlands who are providing 200 days of management consultancy per year to help re-develop some of the critical tools that REACH use and to work to develop our cost recovery business
plan. This partnership will also yield ‘REACH in a Box’, that will fully document the program and provide an easy toolkit for expansion or dissemination to other agencies. We also have partnerships with many in-country organisations that help us to better penetrate our target group,
for example our partnership with PACT has allowed us to work successfully with People Living with HIV and through this we have achieved ground breaking success at training and employment for this highly marginalized group. We are partnered with VSO and AVI to provide capacity in other areas. There are also a number of partnerships under development and at MOU stage, with KPMG (development of financial systems and audit), ANZ bank (Training of key staff) and in its infancy a partnership with a Dutch firm to develop modern welding techniques courses in Ho Chi Minh City. In implementation, REACH is partnered with provincial government agencies and
the Youth Unions in the areas we work. Through our partnerships with Vocational Training centers in provincial areas, we are also able to transfer our successful methodologies to existing infrastructure.

Explain your selections

Our principle funding comes from Plan International (NGO) who has been supporting the program since it began. Other NGO’s support REACH by referring students who are our target group and also with specific training for staff in areas that they have experience in. REACH has a network of over 1000 businesses that provide employment opportunities for our graduates and support the program in other ways. The network of businesses provides support in curriculum development and review as well as providing lectures in the program. They also host some classes in a practical environment and provide work experience for students in the program. Occasionally businesses will provide in kind support. Regional government provides support with official permission for REACH to run programs in their areas. Current support received is classrooms and utilities and outreach services to help mobilize our target group to the program. Customers will provide support to REACH once the Cost Recovery Model is implemented with our clients, with business and students paying a fee. The ‘Other’ mentioned is our Alumni. Currently with over 6000 students graduated and in employment there is a wide network of Alumni, they are formed into clubs at each center and run as an independent unit to provide support to students going through the program and afterwards, ensuring they settle into their new jobs successfully. The Alumni support REACH by also coming back to guest lecture, helping out with recruitment and selection days as well as joining with REACH for special events and occasions.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

REACH has developed 7 strategic objectives for the next three to five years to strengthen our program:
1) Professional management, effective systems and governance - Charter an Executive Board. Fully staffed and trained executive team. Monitoring and QA systems in place and used.
2) Trained, professional and motivated staff - Capacity building of entire staff based on a needs assessment, with appropriate training and support. Develop an official HR Policy Guide and Systems in place. Long-term staff development plans.
3) Effective Youth Participation - Work with Alumni to recruit an expanded membership. Set up Alumni Club as an Independent organization. Give Alumni a role in the governance of REACH. Give support students after leaving REACH if needed.
4) Partnerships with Community and Business - Develop marketing strategy to raise awareness of community and business about REACH and to develop working partnerships with each sector. Get closer to Business to discuss training needs, at REACH and in-house.
5) Financial sustainability - Cost Recovery Model implementation. Develop a stronger fundraising plan and marketing plan.
6) Effective Expansion - Identify training needs and agree locations and expected student numbers. Strengthen resource plan, marketing and mobilization plan. Open permanent Center in Ho Chi Minh City and / or satellite centers.
7) Nationally recognized training and employment program - Market driven curriculum. Trained and certificated Facilitators. Appropriate resources and support packages. National Marketing campaigns.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Restrictive cultural norms


Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

1) REACH specializes in providing disadvantaged youth the practical skills and training needed to enter the job market.
2) REACH targets disadvantaged youth with its 16 criteria list which includes youth living with a family member infected with HIV, orphans, disabled youth, reform school students, ethnic minority, and other socially marginalized groups. In the Vietnamese culture, it is extremely difficult for these groups to find jobs due to the strong social stigma surrounding their background. REACH works hard to find jobs for all of its students with its strong business partner network.
3) REACH targets disadvantaged youth that come from incredibly difficult financial environments. REACH helps students cover the costs of travel and food during the duration of the training.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Leveraged technology

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

1) Increasing target numbers for the next year. Opening up new satellite centers to new regions as well as new permanent center in Ho Chi Minh City.
2) Creating a REACH in a Box tool that details out the REACH methodology into an easy to use manual/toolkit for other organizations to use REACH best practices in other countries. Currently Plan International NGO has plans to use this tool to roll out the project in neighboring countries.
3) Working with pro-bono consulting services from Accenture to do a technology assessment to evaluate how online courses or other technology can enable mass scale up of REACH programs. Also working with Accenture in 2012 to come up with a Management Information System to help REACH operations manage more efficiently as the organization continues to grow.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

Other NGOs/nonprofits as well as other local partners like the government have been instrumental to the success of REACH by providing target students, mobilization support, as well as use of their facilities. Accenture is currently helping REACH through a four part project involving developing a Market Scan Tool, a Cost Recovery Model, Needs Assessment, and REACH in a Box Tool. VSO, an international volunteer program has placed several international volunteers to come and work with REACH for an extended period of time. In 2010, a UK volunteer worked with REACH to strengthen the capacity of the Executive Director and develop a 5 year strategic plan. This year we currently have a US VSO volunteer is documenting best practices and standardizing main operations across REACH locations.