The training centre will help youth become “highly skilled, responsible adults, socially well integrated and agents of their own development”, the centre said.

Bertrand Lortholary, French Ambassador to Vietnam, said: “This bakery did not come about by chance. As a sector, it is a true springboard, especially for people who have not had access to higher studies.”

The centre is co-financed by the French Development Agency (AFD) and a partnership between the college and the European Institute of Cooperation and Development (IECD).

Twelve females and eight males between 18 and 23 years old were selected last year based on economic and social criteria.

Most of the students, who come from 15 provinces in southern Việt Nam, do not have higher degrees.

Kim Tuyen, 19, a trainee from Binh Thuan Province, said her parents divorced when she was four years old. She had to drop out of school before finishing high school to help her paternal grandmother and a younger sister.

“I’m very proud to study here. I can have a brighter future and achieve my goal to work at a five-star hotel and be a good chef,” she said.

The students follow intensive professional training in baking and pastry making for 16 to 20 months, including two traineeships for six months. They also receive English and life skills lessons throughout their apprenticeships.

A monthly participation fee of VND150,000 (US$6.6) is requested from the students, but it can be partially or totally waived in some situations.

The college provides free accommodation for the students at dormitories, and IECD covers tuition, food and healthcare costs.

To ensure sustainability, the centre operates as a social enterprise and is 90% self-financing, thanks to the sale of products made by apprentices.

The training programme is part of larger regional project which promotes the inclusion of vulnerable youth via training in hospitality and catering trades in Southeast Asia, according to Fabrice Richy, director of the AFD in Vietnam.

A similar model has achieved great success in Hue since its establishment in 1999.

In mid-2018, 90 students graduated from La Boulangerie Française in Hue. Of the group, 96% of them work at four- and five-star hotels, and some have set up their own bakery and pastry businesses.