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Father Roel Soto, country representative for Don Bosco in Cambodia. Photo supplied

Collars of blue and white: What Cambodia essentially needs

Hands-on, vocational training is often overlooked by many young Cambodians who favour furthering their education at university. However, technical skills obtained through vocational training remain highly sought-after in many developing countries, and the Kingdom is no exception.

Father Roel Soto, country representative for Don Bosco in Cambodia, spoke to Post Property on the importance of vocational training in up skilling the workforce and ensuring that Cambodia’s future does not rely solely on, or chase after, white-collar jobs.

What is the philosophy of Don Bosco and its educational focus?
The philosophy of Don Bosco is the integral education of poor and marginalized youth to become true believers of their respective religion and good citizens of their country. This is achieved through the preventive educational system of Don Bosco that aims at forming the whole person as a rational being, making him/her feel loved and trusted as a person, and empowering him/her to make responsible choices in life.

Who are you targeting with your educational programs?
Our priority in our educational programs are the poor and marginalized children and youth who comprise the greater percentage of the population of any country and who play a greater role in the future of the country.

Vocational training does not enjoy the best reputation among Cambodian youth because they believe studying at university, instead, will guarantee them a well-paid office job - what do you tell youth with that perception?

In a developing country like Cambodia, technicians are very much in demand. A lot of work awaits them. Let us face the fact that not all can expect an office job. Others need to do the manual and technical jobs.

I don’t blame others for having a poor idea and perception about vocational training since educational attainment is most often one of the basis of salary identification. Nevertheless, there is also the aspect of skill and competency in any job that could mark-up our salary too. Thus, it would be better to consider that proficiency and competency in one’s field of work is also a guarantee for a good-paying job.

I am happy to say that all our graduates have work after their training in Don Bosco, and the majority receive a decent salary of $180-$200 for a start, and get a raise after three months.

What chances do your graduates have of obtaining work once they enter the job market?
In the Don Bosco Technical School (DBTS) Phnom Penh, based on our job tracking in the job placement office, we have 100 percent chances of work for our graduates in the job market. We update and upgrade our curriculum based on the feedback and work experiences of company partners and graduates.

What are the most sought-after technical jobs in the market?
Among the courses we offer in DBTS Phnom Penh, the most sought-after technical jobs in the market are mechanical-welding, electrical and electronic. Though these courses would have the highest number of students, our graduates in the courses above every year are not enough to fill in all requests of our partner companies.

Please give your general view on Cambodia’s education opportunities in the vocational field; what developments are positive and what is lacking?
Vocational or technical training is a very expensive educational program. Unfortunately, it is left to stand on its own and is not, or, if it is, less supported financially by the companies that benefit from it. If only training providers and companies/industries work hand-in-hand in the upgrading and in the funding of vocational/technical training, it could produce more relevant, competent and efficient skilled workers in society.

In Cambodia, a lot of technical training is provided by the government and private institutions to people, especially the poor and unemployed. This is a big chance for the poor to help sustain their life. Unfortunately, many poor and unemployed people prefer to work, even if unskilled, for quicker income rather than go for skilled training for a more sustainable and reliable source of income. One way to make the younger generations see the importance of vocational / technical training is to start introducing or integrating it in basic education, especially at the high school level.

What income can skilled workers expect compared to that of university graduates?
Based on our experiences, vocational graduates could expect an average starting income of $120-$200, whereas associate degree graduates from our technical schools could expect an average starting income of $150-$250. The salary would vary depending also on the capacity of the company.

You recently entered a long-term partnership with real estate developer Shukaku in a company-school partnership. Should there be more such initiatives and what effect would it have?
The partnership with Shukaku would certainly help our students upgrade their auto computer-aided design training with the new computer lab and would certainly assist 20 poor students in their technical training. As assured by Shukaku, these steps are only the starting projects in the partnership. We hope that the corporate social involvement of Shukaku in the technical training of poor youth would grow as the Don Bosco Technical School improves in forming better technicians to partner companies every year for the good of society.

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