PHNOM PENH — With regional and international competition increasing, Cambodia’s workers could be falling behind.
A new World Bank report says Cambodia’s labor force lacks the skills to advance the country’s economy, even as an increasing number of young people enter the labor market.
Sitting near her motorscooter outside a gas station in Phnom Penh recently, Bun Chenda, 26, who graduated Build Bright University with a tourism degree three years ago, says she can’t find work.
“When I studied at school, I studied only theory, and did not practice, so I don’t have specific skills to find a job,” she said.
Many graduates of Cambodia’s schools don’t have the skills that industries are looking for. Meanwhile, thousands of new people enter the job market each year.
Not long ago, Dao Yan Phirum, 30, was among them. He graduated the National University of Management, but, without a specific skill set, he said, he was forced to return home and help his parents.
Deab Sophirak, deputy director for Chamroeun University of Poly-Technology, said 500 students graduate from his school every year. Only about 10 find jobs, he said.
That’s not only a concern for young people looking for work, but for Cambodia as a whole, as Asean moves toward economic integration and as global competition increases.
Kem Lay, a sociology researcher, said Cambodia needs “human resources and real skills” if it expects to compete. That will mean more people going to school for specific purposes, such as technical skills, and then using those skills in the workplace.
Right now, that isn’t happening. Research by the International Labor Organization recently found that only about 10 percent of students registered in secondary school are in technical or vocational schools.
Only about 2 percent of students in higher education are in similar schools. In universities, a small fraction of students are undertaking programs in engineering or natural sciences, the ILO found.