Training Unemployed Youth in Laos
Despite boasting one of East Asia’s fastest-growing economies, Laos struggles to offer adequate and meaningful employment opportunities for its youth. According to the World Bank, as many as 96,000 young people are in search of jobs in a given year. This is why, in the rural community of Vieng Kham, Salesian missionaries have launched a new vocational training program that will prepare some of the country’s most impoverished youth for in-demand careers.
“There is a clear need to create more opportunities for youth to develop relevant technical skills,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, echoing the World Bank’s analysis of the situation. “This is especially crucial considering that half of the country’s seven million people are under the age of 23. When these young women and men are prepared for, and can secure, sustainable work, they not only become self-sufficient adults; they also contribute to their country’s continued growth and prosperity.”
Because mopeds and scooters are popular modes of transportation in Laos, the program — which will initially enroll 25 students selected from among Vieng Kham’s poorest areas — will train participants in motorcycle mechanics. “It’s a winning choice, from an occupational point of view,” says Father Patrizio Maccioni, who serves in Laos.
During their intensive training period, students will be hosted in a local boarding school in order to avoid having to travel lengthy distances each day. Missionaries also hope to cover any of the students’ additional expenses, such as food, to ensure that they can successfully complete the program.
This initiative — which Fr. Patrizio hopes to expand, in order to enroll more youth in future sessions — represents the latest manifestation of the Salesians’ commitment to Laotian youth. Since 2004, when missionaries first arrived in the country, they have prepared more than 600 girls and boys for entry into the workforce.
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