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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Skills shortage in spotlight

Skills shortage in spotlight

Cambodia's labour force is falling short of the needs of domestic employers and faces challenges from a growing youth population, according to a report from the National Institute of Statistics.

The Kingdom “desperately requires” skilled labour - such as mechanics, electrical technicians, and workers in the hospitality and construction industries – as that is where the “bulk” of new employment is being created, according to the Labour and Social Trends in Cambodia 2010 report.

“Cambodia today grapples with a profound and growing mismatch between the skills of the labour force and those required by employers,” the document, drawn up with support from the International Labour Organisation, stated.

“Currently, however, the country actually generates far more university graduates … [that] are unsuited to vocational occupations.”

A fast-growing labour force and a slow level of economic diversification was exacerbating the situation in the Kingdom, it said.

Kevin Britten, managing director at Top Recruitment, said a central issue to improving the domestic labour market was furthering vocational training in the Kingdom.

He said there was a shortage of Cambodians with lower level engineering skills, such as in construction or mechanics, adding that it was a problem shared among other nations in the region.

“Everyone wants their children to grow up to be doctors and lawyers,” he said, when there was often demand for professions such as secretaries and car mechanics.

According to the report, some employers had also complained of a lack of “soft skills” such as critical thinking, communication, and leadership, “the lack of which is an increasingly common concern of employers in the country”.

The government has been responding to the challenge, the report said.

The first Phnom Penh job centre was recently launched, with two more expected by the end of 2010.

The centres are aimed at linking the long-term unemployed to new employment through technical and vocational training, according to the report.

Several Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, observers of the garment industry yesterday pointed to a need for domestic labour at mid-management level.

Mona Tep, director of the Garment Industry Productivity Center, said that many garment factories were keen to replace foreigners with Cambodians in relatively well-paid jobs, which could help factories cut costs.

“We have a whole industry that needs more Cambodians,” she said.

The organisation had conducted a course on preparing students for middle management work for garment factories, with all of its graduates finding well-paid employment within two weeks, she said.

The global financial crisis had also raised concerns about the competitiveness of Cambodian exports in comparison with other Asian countries, according to the report.

It added the government had responded well to the crisis, though recovery was generally an externally driven process.

Cambodia’s “leading industry” the garment sector had been affected by the crisis, the report said, highlighting the need for diversification of markets and of products.

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