While social work is now a recognised profession in 84 countries, it is an area which is still in its infancy in the developing world. In vietnam, the process of developing the understanding and practice of social work is unfolding. One recent initiative has been the introduction of vocational qualifications in care to the vietnamese system of social services, an initiative with which the authors of this paper were centrally involved. This paper describes the authors’ experience of introducing a vocational qualification into two of the country’s key sites for care provision, namely social protection centres and communes (village communities). A new range of social need has been growing in vietnam, alongside rapid economic development. Care services such as social protection centres and communes have found themselves under increasing pressure to respond to these needs. Like many developing countries, social services are delivered by a largely unqualified workforce. The paper describes the approach taken to determine the content and most appropriate system for delivering a new qualification for this group of staff in vietnam. The paper justifies the selection of a vocational qualification system and provides a reflective commentary on this initiative in the light of current developments in social work in the united kingdom.