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Constructive Cambodian: The job market’s effect on graduate students

Perhaps the most important natural resource for the development of any sovereign nation  is its people: its human resources. Aware of this, the Ministry of Planning has issued a strategy, within the context of the Cambodian Millenn-ium Development Goals, to increase literacy rates among young Cambodians.

The number of schools and universities in Cambodia has grown sharply over the past decade.  There are now 88 institutions of higher education in Cambodia, 34 of which are state-run and the remaining 54 are private.

Primary and secondary schools are being built  across the country  to improve access to education for rural children.

Even so, the country’s unemployment rate is still relatively high.  According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Factbook, Cambodia ranks 29th in the world in terms of unemployment.

Many college graduates are unable to find jobs, while others end up in jobs that are minimally relevant to their skills and area of study.  Some even end up returning to their parents’ businesses after many years of study.

This phenomenon has many causes.  One problem is that students often make uninformed decisions when choosing a major.

For example, many high- school students choose to obtain the skills necessary for service jobs such as banking, management, marketing and accounting without considering whether there will be enough jobs for them when they graduate.

Sometimes when there is a job opening for a management position, hundreds of competing applications are thrown into the ring – a harsh situation for any prospective job-seeker.

Besides the level of demand for particular job skills, the quality of one’s educat-ion also has an effect on employment opportunities.

Students themselves should ensure they have spent the necessary years forming a good educational base before blaming the job market.  Many companies employ foreign staff because Cambodian human resources do not meet the requirements of the position.

Personally, I think it will be difficult to lower the unemployment rate in Cambodia, although there are steps that can be taken now to begin  the process.

First of all, teachers play an important role in guiding students towards pursuing majors that the market needs.  Most high-school graduates have only a vague idea of which university major to choose, and student conformity ensures there will be     an imbalance in the skills being acquired.

There should therefore be some sort of consulting service provided to students to discuss job possibilities for a specific student based on their talents and interests, as well as job availability.  According the CIA World Factbook, only about 16 per cent of the labor force were employed in industry as of 2009, but almost twice that many were employed in the service sector.

If students are made aware of these facts during their job search, they will have an easier time finding a position once they finish university.

On top of this, more courses and majors should be created to meet market demand.

Cambodian universities offer students a very limited selection of majors compared with many foreign universities.  Only the Cambodia Institute of Technology offers engineering courses, while many others provide only service majors such as marketing, public relations, information technology and business.  Skills such as mechanics, chemical engineering and agricultural science, desperately needed by the Cambodian economy, are not provided for in university course work.

According to a 2008 issue of the Cambodia Development Review, employers have significant difficulty recruiting suitable staff because of low skill levels, narrow qualificat-ions, unrealistic expectations and a general lack of professional readiness. If Cambod-ian students are made fully aware of the needs of the  job market, they will be better able to choose to  learn the skills demanded by the market, thus enhancing their appeal to employers.

Simply choosing the right major, however, is not enough.  It’s vital that students stay committed to their goals and work hard in their academic and profess-ional lives.  No one can help you besides yourself, so try to help yourself first before calling for help.



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