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Manufacturing a future for Cambodia’s youth

In the past week, I was glad to read attention and interest focused on the future of our new generation. In the articles headlined “Having faith in Cambodia’s Youths” (August 12) and “Youth Employment Falling” (August 13), the message is clear, more jobs for our youths, create employment and employability but until now little progress has been made to draft a real master plan conjugating and levelling the growth of our industries and the level of education offered.

A situation analysis on youth is important so we can have a benchmark, but we need to seek and define the actual and future industries’ needs and to better connect the education and private sectors.

It is only with these two information components in hand that we will be able to identify the weakness of our education and vocational training systems and hopefully, address clearly the employment issue.

One other active role to be taken should be to campaign and promote our manufacturing industries such as apparel so they can understand and learn to appreciate the prospects of working in this sector. By better communication, we can prepare our young generation to properly enter the job market, so they can take their future in hand and contribute to the growth of our nation.

If we look at the curriculum at Cambodia’s universities, we will see an overwhelming concentration on general business and management courses and similar education that might be appropriate for employment in banking, or government, or with international organizations, but apparently these sectors are unable to absorb the graduates.

Educators say they offer these programmes because youths do not want to study other, often more practical subjects. It is time to encourage this overflow of young people to learn more about opportunities in Cambodia’s industries, particularly those that drive the economy.

Since 2005, our organization (Cambodia Skills Development Center-CASDEC/GIPC) has worked with more than 70 employers in the garment sector, helping Cambodians qualify for and succeed in engineering, supervisory, and other higher-level technical positions that general and factory managers are eager to fill.

An employment survey in 2007 by HR (Cambodia) Inc and supported by GMAC and USAID, found that 80 percent of the technical and supervisory positions in the industry were held by foreigners, and that factory management was more than willing to hire qualified Cambodians.

If the garment industry could hire Cambodian middle management at local costs it would improve the overall competitiveness of the industry and could help regain opportunities lost during the recession.

Manufacturing jobs are greatly needed for the many young Cambodians who cannot qualify for management and for whom industrial employment represents the first steps into economic sufficiency. Cambodia needs to create a stronger manufacturing society.

Mona Tep, Director
Garment Industry
Productivity Center

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

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