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Battling for bytes

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The demand for employees with tech know-how and computer skills is rapidly expanding in Cambodia. Everyone from restaurant owners to corporate executives demand graduates who not only possess industry-specific skills but also the ability to apply those skills using modern technologies.

While this demand is increasing exponentially, universities are not able to integrate e-learning into their curriculum, which leaves a gap between the actual skill sets of college graduates and the skills necessary to become a productive member of a company or organization.

“I can see that most of the university graduates only know about the theory but they lack practice,” said Mike Gaertner, the chief operation officer at CIDC Information Technology.

“The main challenge is education. I think Cambodia has enough resources compared to Vietnam and Thailand. I just feel that students never get to do a real project, so they do not know how to develop themselves with the technology,” he added.

While universities are struggling to provide students with real work experience, the Center for Information Systems Training (CIST), provides a 2-year intensive training course for high school graduates who cannot afford university. Their selection process is extraordinarily thorough, however, for those who make it in, a career in technology is almost a sure thing. “Eighty percent of our students get jobs with a proper salary and conditions within a month,” said Nimol Sahak, the company department coordinator for CIST.

Much of CIST’s success is a result of the two internships that all trainees must do before graduating. “Internships are very important because they link to job opportunities and they are a way that students can gain skills and enrich their knowledge,” explained Nimol Sahak.

Many school officials recognize the urgent need for their students to gain tech skills in order to compete in the global job market, however it is expensive to invest in the technology itself, as well as the human resources training necessary to put the technology to use.

Among Cambodia’s universities, the Institute of Technology (ITC) is generally regarded as the best for tech training, however Rathavy Mony Annanda, the head of the school’s computer science department, explained that even ITC is struggling to prepare graduates for the work force.

“We want to provide better training, but with limited resources how can we do that?”

On a more optimistic note, he predicted that the government and the private sector will realise the importance of investing in technology schools as tech-skills are an essential part of any organization.

Although universities may not have the capacity to provide all of their students with access to computers and e-learning opportunities, many students have taken it upon themselves to gain that technological know-how to get a leg up in the job market.

“Young teenagers are studying computers and using Internet,” said 23-year-old Ros Piseth, who studied information technology at Build Bright University in Phnom Penh. Ultimately it is the engaged and enlightened young Cambodians who will build a technological infrastructure in Cambodia. But where the money come from?

“Investors will see us here and come,” explained Ros Piseth.

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