About a year ago, 24-year old Zwe Thiha opened a motorcycle service shop, realising a life-long dream. Located in West Kalawtlay village, close to Ye township in Burma’s Mon State, Myanmar, where he participated in rural mechanic training provided by the Vocational Skills Development Program (VSDP). The shop has opened up a whole new world for Zwe.
Zwe started out following in his family’s footsteps, doing back-breaking manual labour from all day at a rubber plantation and paddy field. When the opportunity arose to attend rural mechanic training, provided by VSDP, he enthusiastically applied.
The training, which comprised both practically-oriented hard and soft skills, was led by a number of instructors with significant mechanical experience. This exposed Zwe to a variety of information and perspectives, enabling him to quickly grow his knowledge and experience.
No sooner had he finished the training, then he started used the skills and ideas gleaned from the training to make his dream become a reality. With the help of friends – and bearing in mind his instructors’ advice about the importance of location – Zwe chose a piece of land near the entrance to West Kalawtlay and used his savings to start the shop.
The skills Zwe acquired through the training, such as motorcycle repair and business planning, are being put to good use, and Zwe is enjoying both the set working hours and the chance to use his mind as well as his body in his daily work.
“While the income isn’t steady, rural mechanics earn much more money than rubber tappers,” says Zwe. “These are lifelong skills that can help you turn your life around, like I have.”
Zwe plans to continue progressing in his chosen field, learning new skills to keep up with changing technologies, and to expand his business to include selling spare parts, as well as offering repair services.
Naw Than Sein Kyu (22) is a girl who suffers from poor health. Despite this, she is working hard to make a living doing what she is interested in and her health allows, working as a beautician at a beauty salon in Ye city.
Naw comes from a family of seven in Ywar Kalay village, where the majority of people work on an agricultural plantation, like her father and sister, or travel to Thailand as migrant workers, like her brothers. Breaking from this pattern, Naw attended beautician training provided by the Vocational Skills Development Program (VSDP) in Ye township, Myanmar, the first person from her village to choose this path.
“I applied for the training because I wanted to learn a new skill,” she says.
Since a beautician’s work does not require hard physical labour, Naw finds it manageable. Despite having never worked before and only completing schooling up to grade 9, she did well in the training, and soon after she completed it she began working at a Beauty Salon in Ye.
Although Naw had to temporarily return to her village due to her health, the salon owner requested that she come back to work once she had recovered. At the salon, she is able to apply skills she learned during the training, such as nail art, makeup and hairdressing. For the first time, she is able to earn a steady income and advance her skills.
After getting experience and become more skilful in her work, she would like to go back to her own village, where her parents are, and open her own beauty salon. She also would like other young women to learn a skill and earn money from it.
21-year-old Hnin Hnin Wei from Rakhine lives in Thanbhyuzayat in Maynmar’s Mon State with her mother and younger brother. Her father has passed away and her mother is one of the caretakers at the local monastery.
Hnin Hnin used to work at her aunt’s clothing shop, but after completing tailor training provided by the Vocational Skills Development Program (VSDP), she opened her own tailoring shop, which she runs from home. Currently, Hnin Hnin sews about 100 to 200 pieces of clothing each month for her friends and people she knows from the market, and is working on building a larger customer base.
The training not only gave Hnin Hnin the skills to make and design clothes, but also information on how to establish her own business. Based on what she learnt, Hnin Hnin aimed to start by selling her clothing at half price and, once she had established a loyal customer base that recognised her neat, skilful designs, slowly raising the prices.
“Not only does this job pay better than the job in my aunt’s shop,” Hnin Hnin says, “it also suits me better – I would much rather be making clothes than selling them.”
Multiple instructors were involved in the training, which exposed Hnin Hnin to a wide range of knowledge, experiences and perspectives. She found the practical training particularly useful, especially sewing women’s clothing.
When it comes to the future, Hnin Hnin knows what she needs to do. “I plan to improve my skills and expand my shop,” she says.
Hnin Hnin encourages other young people to improve their lives as she has, and looks forward to sharing her experience with them. “The vocational training I received helped me learn the skills I needed to become successful in my own business, and if other young people take advantage of opportunities and work hard, they too can be successful.”