So this week in lecture we focused on vocational training. High school students who don't get a high enough score to enter college or university have the option to go to vocational school for vocational education training (VET). Many of these workers come from the countryside. This is partly due to the cost of higher education and the extra cost for tutors in high school who help to improve testing scores. Rural families encourage their children to fallow the path of vocational training, because the schooling is shorter and training usually results in immediate employment. In contrast, a university education is a four year investment that does not guarantee a job right after graduation. Vocational training is a good option for people who don't have the option of going to the University and need a fast, steady income.
On Wednesday our Vietnamese class went to a handicraft store where all the products are made by people with mobility handicaps. Almost all of the souvenirs are made out of coconuts. Within an hour we were all taught to make heart key chains by carving a heart out of a coconut and polishing it several times. I used a small detailing hand saw with the help of my teacher to carve out the heart. Then one of the workers showed me how to polish the heart with three different sanders before I finished it with wood polish. It was fun getting to do a bit of carpentry. I went to carpentry camp for a few summers when I was younger and I enjoyed our Wednesday lesson as much as I did those classes. The business is able to provide jobs and income to those who are usually not able to work because of their disability. The owner of the company told us that her business is a good way for handicapped people to meet each other and make new friendships, and even relationships.
We went to a garment factory on Thursday. I was really surprised that the conditions inside the factory were so good. The factory floor was cool, clean, bright, and the employees were organized. We met with a company manager who told us that the average employee makes between $150 to $200 every month. To put things in perspective, teachers make around $300 a month. So it would seem that garment factory workers can make a livable wage, depending on their family size. Sweat shops do exist in Vietnam and I realize that the factory we saw is one of the best. We wouldn't have been allowed to see it otherwise.
Spence is spending this next weekend with me! More pictures and stories to come!!