To ensure that the project is on the right track to achieve its targets an elaborate MRM (Monitoring and Result Measurement) system helps to gather and analyse the necessary data on different levels. It provides not only quantitative findings about beneficiaries attending the trainings courses, drop-out levels and graduation rates but also about their employment status after graduation through tracer studies. This is complemented through qualitative findings such as why students prefer certain trades, the reasons for drop-out and how graduates managed to find employment (or not). Thanks to the MRM system which provides all this crucial information, the project was able to steer the planning of activities and take corrective actions to adapt implementation on time.
Findings of our MRM system showed that in Laos, a sizeable proportion of young people do not necessarily aspire to get employed, as the labour market might not offer them enough opportunities, security and/or a favourable work environment. This is specially the case for women who take care of household and children at the same time. As a response to these findings, VTESS adapted its approach and introduced basic entrepreneurship training to empower beneficiaries to become self-employed. Small start-up funds (seed money) support our target group to become a mushroom producer, a mobile motorbike repair(wo)man or to build a tailor shop in an annex of existing family facilities. In self-employment, these people can contribute to the family income and have to opportunity to build on their livelihood.
Eligibility criteria for the project’s partner school’s vocational training was initially set at the level of finished primary education only. Yet, through VTESS’ MRM system we have observed that there are many young people who have attained lower secondary education but otherwise fit the target group of being jobless and economically deprived. Also, realising that meeting the targeted numbers of beneficiaries alone with youth having primary education only would be unfeasible, it meant that we had to adjust our previously defined target group. In agreement with project partners and donor, we began to include youth with lower secondary education as well and facilitate access for these young people to vocational training and employment support. Without this adaption, the project would not be in line with national efforts of our counterparts to achieve universal lower secondary education in Laos, possibly create inequalities and leave out a notable amount of people who can benefit as well.
Moreover, we have learned through our tracer studies that technical vocational trainings provided by our partner training centres are sometimes not enough for our target group who often lack confidence and other soft skills to be employable. Through the tracing efforts as part of our MRM system, we observed that additional support is needed if we were to achieve bringing our target group into employment. As a response, the project has started to place its employment support coaches from partner organisations such as provincial job centres and non-government organisations, into these institutional vocational training centres. The coaches now deliver additional post-training support such CV writing support, interview coaching and soft skill training, after the project’s beneficiaries have graduated from technical training. Through this, VTESS aims to achieve higher transition of vocational training graduates into the labour market.
Examples like this showcase how MRM and evidence-based adaptive management can contribute to bring more youth into (self-)employment and increase the impact of a development project.