This article examines the role of family in vocational education and training (VET) choices, using primary qualitative data collected in the commune of Hung An, Vietnam. The authors demonstrate that, next to issues relating to income, it is family characteristics that are the predominant influence on an individual’s choice of the VET track, usually portrayed as the ‘choice of the poor’. The article seeks to investigate family educational roles in an Asian Confucian context in transition, such as Vietnam. To understand the role of family in VET choices, the analytical framework looks at the interactions between children and family by combining the level of familial control over children’s choices with the family’s degree of ‘openness’, that is, their ability to mobilise external social resources. Findings on control and ‘openness’ show that choosing VET is primarily related to the aspirations of children to become emancipated more rapidly, and to familial educational history and background. Families also see investment in VET as a minor risk and a reinforcement of their social status. The data interpretation shows that VET students are more autonomous in their educational decisions and rely more on peers, in part because their parents and family struggle to mobilise the social resources needed to make the ‘right’ educational choice for their children.