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Cambodia's rising workforce

How major construction is creating new opportunities in the job market

As you drive over the Japanese bridge and enter Phnom Penh, the cranes and skyscrapers standing high above the cities skyline are a testament to the expansion of construction projects happening throughout the city. The buildings not only represent the modernization of Phnom Penh, which was virtually empty 30 years ago, they are also creating thousands of new blue and white-collar jobs for Cambodian youth.

Although development in Cambodia is still lagging behind its neighbors Vietnam and Thailand, the decline of the economic crisis, which caused many construction projects to halt, is bringing a new wave of international investment into the Kingdom

“Architecture in Cambodia is stepping forward as we observe an increase of foreign investors in the construction sector,” said Touch Samnang a project manager and architect of Diamond Island, adding that this spike in investment will create more jobs for Cambodians of all skill levels.

Although new jobs will be created for manual laborers, tourism students, service industry workers and management-level employees, the buildings, which are being built with to international standards, will require workers with internationally competitive education and training. “The youths have to have the nessesary skills,” said the Touch Samnang, “most of our employees are Cambodian people who graduate with a degree in the country.”

According to the project manager of Canadia Tower, Chea Vuthym, his 32 story building will employ over 10,000 employees in the coming years. Major construction projects “provide many jobs to the youths such as engineers, construction managers, electricians, plumbers, information technicians and a variety of other jobs,” he said.

“The expansion of construction has helped expand the labor market, and more students are studying subjects like Architecture,” said Thim Sophal, an architecture student of Royal University of Fine Arts.

With recommendations from orgnisations including the United Nations and the International Labor Organization, Cambodia’s government has recently focused their resources on the widespread unemployment plaguing the countries youth. They have organized training courses and capacity building programmes around the Kingdom, but according to Cheam Yeap, a parliamentarian for the ruling Cambodia People Party, international investment is another crucial factor in creating a job market which can employ more people.

“As the economy has seen rapid improvement, opportunities for construction have attracted a growing number of foreign investors,” he said, adding that improved accommodations and services will attract even more people to live and invest in Cambodia.

Although new jobs are being created by construction projects, Cambodia’s workforce is still under-qualified for many of the jobs which are being created.

“We lack the educational facilities producing graduates and skilled resources for the sector,” said Sandra Dámico, Managing Director of HR Inc., in an email to Lift. “You cannot graduate with a degree or certificate and manage a big building project. You need years of experience to take on these positions. Given the sophistication of the type of buildings that are going up – this also means significantly more skilled people for even the manual jobs. Safety measures, security, accuracy, and high productivity are paramount in ensuring that building projects are successful, on time, and do not go over budget.”

But while much of Cambodia’s workforce is currently unprepared for the jobs that are opening, Dámico said she is optimistic that in the years to come the situation will improve. “Surely our Cambodian workforce will learn a significant amount from current building projects and will hopefully be sufficiently skilled for projects in the future,” she said.



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