CAMBODIA faces a significant challenge in finding qualified local engineers to work in the oil and gas industry, but has recently taken steps to ensure qualified personnel will be available, officials said.
Pen Ngoeun, an adviser to the Council of Ministers told the Post this week that US oil giant Chevron would need a minimum of 600 qualified Cambodian engineers for its offshore operation once production begins.
"They will need to have the highest technical skills - these are not manual workers but engineers," Pen Ngoeun said of the employees, adding that Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told a group of American business people Friday that some talented students were being sent abroad to train to meet the expected demand from oil companies.
"We know we currently lack qualified labour," he said. "One benefit [of having local skilled engineers] is that won't have to watch as wages flow out of the country, which would happen if they were foreign employees."
Pen Ngoeun said responsible companies such as Chevron would consider hiring local skilled workers as a tool to develop their businesses.
"Because we are local, we know our geography and understand the Khmer people," he said.
An official at the Ministry of Education, who asked not to be named, said that none of the country's universities offers oil and gas engineering studies. And he said fewer Cambodians were now graduating from Russian universities - which do offer such courses - than in the past two decades.
Sin Mengsrun, vice president for academic affairs at Pannasastra University, agreed that the country faced a shortage in this area. He blamed a lack of interest from students and the fact that engineering was a difficult career. Norton University's rector said an additional problem was that the country lacked lecturers in the subject.
Chevron and the Finance Ministry are reportedly close to finalising agreement on the royalty share for offshore Block A in the Gulf of Thailand.