JVC Technical School deputy director Nop Thim says his school produces about 50 mechanics a year, well short of market demand.
While many university graduates struggle to find work in their preferred fields, vocational schools are having trouble turning out enough skilled workers to keep pace with Cambodia’s growing industrial and technical sectors.
To meet the needs of the fast-growing economy, technical schools are graduating workers with two-year training courses in such specialties such as electronics, welding, printing and automotive mechanics.
The country has 38 technical and vocational training institutions providing technical training in fields from handicrafts to services, and the number of technical and vocational students has dramatically increased from 27,894 in 2005 to 47,987 in 2006 and 88,367 in 2007, according to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MLV).
The Don Bosco Technical School has been providing technical skills to disadvantaged youth annually since 1991, according to school headmaster Suy Chheng, while the JVC Technical School was training around 50 mechanics every year, said its deputy director, Nop Thim.
“In 1991, Don Bosco admitted only 58 students, but this number grew to 306 in 2007,” said Suy Chheng. “Cambodian technicians’ skills are comparable to those of neighboring countries, but we are far behind in terms of resources,” he added.
Pech Sorphorn, Secretary of State at the MLV, said in a June 1 statement there were 16,912 students studying at the technical level or for associate degrees, “but these additions to the labor supply still don’t meet market demand.”
The rush to the classroom is balanced by a roaring economy that demands evermore skilled workers, particularly in small- and medium-sized enterprises, with jobs still going begging.
Phoun Vireak, 32, a former Don Bosco student, was hired as an electronics engineer at Comin Khmer in 2000 and is now a section manager of their services division.
“There are not enough technicians in Cambodia to meet market demand because the country is developing so fast,” he said.
There are not enough technicians in Cambodia to meet market demand because the country is developing so fast.
Suy Cheng said 60 of Don Bosco’s recent graduates have had job offers from a sugarcane processor, all of whom were currently receiving additional training from the employer in Thailand.
“Most of the skilled workers at the Kampot Cement Plant are also Don Bosco graduates,” Cheng said.
Cambodia’s rising consumer demand for luxury goods, from automobiles to mobile phones, is also driving demand for more trained service technicians qualified to maintain or repair these products.
“Market demand is high, and there is an unmet need for more mechanics, but the school can produce only about 50 mechanics per year,” said JVC’s Nop Thim.
Helping fill the void are training centers like the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC)and the Preah Kossomak Polytechnical Institute.
Kaing Faing Lay, 23, earned an associate degree at ITC and now works for iLi Consulting Engineers Mekong Ltd. Meanwhile, he’s taking further courses in civil engineering from the institute.
“There are two reasons I chose to study civil engineering,” he said. “First, I like the subject, and second, the job market is so broad. It’s easy to find a job because the country is developing, especially the construction sector.”