How do you create sustainable development? Passerelles Numériques Vietnam’s answer is to train underprivileged students to work in IT
“We believe in them,” says Julie Tardieu of the students taught in the IT programmes run by Passerelles Numériques Vietnam (PNV). “The big challenge is to help them believe in themselves.”
Julie is the general manager of PNV, a French charity based in Danang, and has been running operations in Vietnam since September, 2015. As she tells me about one of the programme’s recent graduates, it’s clear that she’s passionate about the project she oversees. And it’s clear that the former student now believes in herself.
“Last week I was with Luyen,” she says. “She’s from the countryside and was living with her aunt, sister and mother — there was no father in the picture. They were striving in the rice fields.
“She studied for two years and graduated in 2014. Now she’s a software developer and she’s giving money back to her mother. She’s living here in Danang and is quite independent now. She’s just taken a plane for the first time with her company and she’s very proud she’s got a professional life — it’s very touching for me. These are her words: ‘When all the doors of hope were closed’, PNV arrived in her school and she was accepted.”
Set up in France, Passerelles Numériques opened their first training centre, in Cambodia, in 2006. In 2009 they launched in The Philippines and in 2010, Vietnam. During this period they have trained more than 1,000 underprivileged youths to build their employability through education in the digital industry, helping both themselves and their families escape poverty.
So successful has the project been that 80 percent of the students in last year’s class, who graduated with an IT Diploma from the University of Danang, already had jobs to go to when they left PNV. The rest found work within two to three months of finishing their course.
The key is that PNV doesn’t just teach technical and vocational skills, but life skills.
“For me this is what really makes the difference,” explains Julie. “We provide soft skills training. We teach our students how to behave in a company and how to communicate with others. We also try to train them in how to manage a project. This is very important because besides technical skills, companies are looking for people who are proactive, can take initiative and know how to learn by themselves.”
The other key aspect of the course is the internship programme — PNV students spend three months working with companies in Danang and Ho Chi Minh City. According to Julie it’s a win-win situation: “We work with companies to ensure that our students fit their needs and that the training provided by the companies will fit our needs as well.”
The formula works — PNV’s students are in high demand.
Only taking on students living in Central Vietnam — Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Danang, Quang Nam, Kontum, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh — which is also one of the poorest parts of the country, the selection process starts with local government identifying high schools in poor areas, and PNV visiting these schools.
“We inform students about the programme,” says Julie, “and tell them about what kind of opportunities they can find in IT. The ones who are interested take tests in maths and logic. If they pass the test, then we interview them individually.”
In the interviews, PNV checks the potential and motivation of the applicants and assess whether they will be successful on the training programme, and after that good employees or entrepreneurs. This is followed by a visit to the families and a further assessment based on social criteria to determine whether they can study without PNV or not. “The goal is to help students who can’t study without us.”
Students who are successfully accepted onto the programme will have all their financial needs paid for by PNV — food, accommodation, transportation, health insurance, medical care, university tuition fees and technical equipment. For two years the students don’t have any expenses. Says Julie: “Actually, during the selection process it’s a big challenge to convince the families to trust us. Sometimes they don’t believe that everything is for free.”
The reward, though, is immense. So far, 163 students have graduated from PNV, and at present there are two classes with a total of 100 students; 48 are studying software development and the rest are learning testing and web development.
“In Vietnam, so many companies are building up,” says Julie. “There are so many start-ups and so many foreigners building companies here. They all have expectations and you feel that it’s very dynamic. You can really sense that in Ho Chi Minh City and in Danang, that everyone is really into it, creating new projects, creating new applications, creating new video games. I believe PNV can really be part of this new development and create new jobs which will help new companies.”
For more information on PNV, click on passerellesnumeriques.org. The next class that starts at PNV will study for three years and students will finish with a college degree from the University of Danang. PNV is also in the process of expanding its partnerships to Ho Chi Minh City