Rural Youth ASCEND through Transformational Career Paths

The ASCEND Job Preparation Program is a last-mile education platform designed to respond to the global skills gap crisis.

Photo of Zhihan Lee
6 5

Written by

I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Organization name


Year founded


Initiative stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $100k - $250k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 1,000 - 5,000

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Rural development

Headquarters location: Country

  • Philippines

Headquarters location: City

Bacolod City

Location(s) of impact

Philippines: Bago City, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental Province, Quezon City, Metro Manila


Facebook URL

Twitter URL

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Global Youth Unemployment: • 75 million young people unemployed and 3x as many underemployed • 40% of employers say a skills shortage is driving entry-level vacancies. In the Philippines, there are few effective ways for low-income youth to develop skills that companies need. • 70% of high school graduates do not go to higher education • College is failing. 40% of those who go to college would dropout Still, 25% of entry level jobs in the Philippines in 2016 were left unfilled because of lack of qualified talent

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

BagoSphere’s last mile education model offers an end-to-end process to employment. BagoSphere creates shared value by: (1) Going direct to employers: BagoSphere takes on a non-traditional role as a recruitment partner of employers AND being a school. Having the unique ability to translate between different employers’ needs and deconstructing their needs into learning experiences. Being proactive in sensing and building curriculum in-house to suit skills and competencies in the ever-changing job-market. Being ultra-selective in choosing industry sectors that will allow good career prospects for students to have a transformative effect on their lives. (2) Hand-up not a hand-out: Unlike mostly free vocational training, BagoSphere students can opt to take a study now pay later loan from one of the microfinance partners. Students and parents sees the program as an investment into the future, not as a hand-out or a dole-out. They become more active participants in the process.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Since BagoSphere started operations in Jan 2013, we have achieved the following impact: • Number of Enrolled Students: 1,028 • Number of Graduates and present students: 1,008 • 98% Completion rate • Student Job Placement Rate: 85% • 53% of graduates are able to secure a job without work experience Our beneficiaries have the following profile: (1) 70% female, 30% male (2) 18 – 35 years old (3) About 40% of females are single mothers (4) Usually part of a large extended family with at least 1-3 children (5) 90% are high school graduates and college dropouts from public schools (6) 50% have no formal work experience (7) Below minimum wage in the informal economy. Many find informal work at lottery outlets, barber shops, water stations, salons, small catering shops, etc.

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

We have two main revenue streams, (1) tuition fees (2) Recruitment placement fees. BagoSphere to establish operations in new areas, expanding our impact to more people in new areas of the Philippines and new programs, hence also increasing revenue. In addition, the grants will help to kickstart operations in new locations and launch loan guarantee funds together with local microfinance organizations. The grants are catalytic i.e. they help BagoSphere to establish funding sources that could ultimately be self-sustaining. These loan guarantee funds are innovative in nature, and require a long time horizon to develop. 1. Individual donations or gifts: 10% 2. Grants: 10% 3. Corporate contributions: N/A 4. Earned income: 80%

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

We are in between worlds, a hybrid between a traditional vocational training school and a recruitment agency (1) Going direct to employers (2) End-to-end process to employment (3) Zero-waste learning (4) Creating the most direct path to employment (5) Soft Skills development (6) Hand-up not a hand-out (7) Financial Resilience (8) Working with colleges, not against

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

At the National University of Singapore, I led a study trip in rural India with a social enterprise who trains uneducated, often illiterate Indian youths and employed them to do data entry work in remote, rural towns. In India, I saw extreme poverty but more than that I saw hope with the work they were doing. It led me to question: • The role of formal education and the journey to employment • The failure of public education and college education in leading people to employment • Fast evolving jobs in a new digital economy • Young people who have lots of potential but have no access to transformative education, one that will lead to good jobs • The transformation of young women’s life when they get a job; their elevation of their status in the family and the confidence it gave them to lead their lives and their children.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Ashoka page or contact


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha Seck

Congratulations for the initiative. Education is a basis of any advance.

View all comments