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Growth needs skills training

10 shift ceo pha lina

After having worked in Cambodia for more than 20 years, Pierre Tami decided to set his focus on food consumption. The entrepreneur, who will open a new Italian Restaurant on May 8 in Phnom Penh and represents Chicco D’Oro Cambodia, a coffee machine sales and distribution company, also created the foundation Shift 360 two years ago to drive fair and sustainable employment, improve access to services essential to economic growth and influence decision-makers to adopt a common good approach. As chief executive of the foundation he gave the Post’s Sarah Thust an insight into the future prospects of the Kingdom’s tourism sector.   

What is Shift 360 doing?
The purpose is, basically, that economic empowerment is important to solve social issues. Above all, I worry for the new generation of Cambodians. Currently, a young woman or man of 18 years who wants to learn something either needs to have money to visit a good school or needs to come from a difficult social or poor background to fit into the [scheme] of an NGO that offers free skills training. This is what we want to solve.

With Shift 360, I decided to operate in two frames. First of all, [we need to] offer as many jobs as possible in, say, garments – we often work with the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia – tourism and agriculture. Then we need to provide a decent skills training to future employees.

Do you see a priority in the tourism sector?
Indeed, even if garments are also significant. The government aims to accommodate seven million international tourists until 2020, and that means this sector will offer many jobs.   

Is the Kingdom prepared for this growth?
To meet such a growth a proper infrastructure needs to be put into place. However, many improvements have been done. A problem is the lack of skills in the tourism sector.

Expansion has to be supported by qualified personnel. Currently, good chefs and cooks are the most difficult to find.

Even though Asia has its highest growth in the tourism sector, Cambodia still does not have a single school to train, above all, kitchen personnel. The mechanics industry faces
similar problems.

There are more than only cooks in the tourism sector. Why is their role important for you?
Because kitchen staff are responsible for hygiene – why should tourists come back if they get sick in Cambodia? Growth needs quality. We also shouldn’t forget that Cambodia needs to compete both within the region and internationally.

Thus, while we are trying to work on this, the country also needs to improve its perception of this issue. Working in a kitchen is not recognised by the society, but it carries a lot of responsibilities.

Do you co-operate with government?
Our relationship with the government is harmonious, but it has to be translated into a productive one.

Public-private partnerships are one possible solution. In the tourism sector, it is better to work with the government if you want to make a change.  

How much potential do you see in the tourism sector?
I believe tourism can highlight Cambodia’s strengths; can make you see this treasure of people. The country now can show its beauty. If everybody keeps throwing rubbish at the beaches, tourism will likely not bloom.

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