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Allen Dodgson Tan, founder of STEM Cambodia. Photo supplied

Students embrace bright tech future with Microsoft support

Microsoft is giving Cambodian students the opportunity to develop and hone their skills for a technology-driven future, tapping into the country’s young and enthusiastic talent pool via the launch of the Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) program.

The Bill Gates-founded multinational firm, which boasts a market capitalisation of more than $400 billion and is lauded for its philanthropic efforts, recently committed to reinvigorate its presence in Cambodia via the initiative which is a result of Microsoft’s $75 million global investment in computer science education.

Launched at the end of last year, the investment forms part of the company’s efforts to bridge the technology gap.

In partnership with local non-government organisation STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Cambodia, the MSP program is aimed at cultivating technology skills among Cambodia’s young adults by providing a platform to grow student communities.

“Our goal is to use technology to unlock the potential for all students to learn, close the technology gap and empower the 1.4 billion students in the world to achieve more for themselves and their communities,” Rena Chai, marketing and operations lead for Microsoft’s Southeast Asian New Markets, told Post Plus.

Under the partnership, Microsoft expects to recruit about 100 students from any course of study in full-time tertiary education institutions over the next 12 months with the help of STEM Cambodia.

Emphasising a youth-driven approach, selected MSPs will be appointed as ambassadors for Microsoft on their campuses and host events to share their knowledge and passion for technology with fellow classmates.

Students will have access to training, the latest technologies and reference materials such as Windows 10 and Office 365 Education, while being provided with opportunities to work alongside Microsoft professionals. In addition, MSPs will get the opportunity to be considered for internship and research programs.

According to Allen Dodgson Tan, founder and managing director of STEM Cambodia, the partnership with Microsoft will provide Cambodian students with a global technology platform to build their technical knowledge, leadership and communication skills.

“MSP is about giving skills to students and giving them the opportunity to foster these skills while they are at university to make them more marketable when they graduate,” Tan said.

“When they enter the job market, they are likely to encounter requirements from employers that match what they are going to learn at MSP.”

With about 250 students having already expressed interest in participating in the MSP, Tan, who is also education committee chair at the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia, said the prospective student’s enthusiasm was extremely encouraging.
“The youth of Cambodia are an amazing force right now,” he said.

“They are certainly enthusiastic about any opportunity that’s going to make them better. It doesn’t surprise me that they are very enthusiastic about this.”

While the fields of STEM remain broad and cover a range of subjects, from network administration to web development, Tan said there were a number of in-demand careers falling into this category as the Kingdom shifts into a semi-skilled and skilled workforce.

“Civil engineering is one [occupation],” he said, adding that tech outsourcing was also an interesting, up-and-coming space.

“There’s a lot happening in that space at the moment; there are companies that are setting up here and servicing companies from overseas in things like app programming and different types of computer programming.

“Those are all fields Cambodia can easily become competitive in because it just takes a person in front of a laptop.”

With Microsoft recently inking a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Commerce to promote Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the Kingdom, Tan anticipates the MSP partnership with STEM will continue beyond the initial 12-month term.

According to Microsoft, young people around the world have already benefited from the MSPs, with current and former students honing their tech skills by running hackathons and hosting technology demos.

“In a technology-fuelled global economy, students need 21st century skills such as foundations in computer science to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow,” the company said.

Ros Salin, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, which has shown its support for STEM through a separate MoU, told Post Plus it was encouraged to see a big player like Microsoft investing in tech education for students.

“Cambodia needs students with knowledge in IT, machinery and engineering,” Salin said.

“The young Cambodian students are very talented and intelligent with technology. Based on support from Microsoft and STEM, students can get work in the regional or international market.”

The MSP program debuted in 2006 and is now active in more than 100 countries.



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