What we want. Who wants us. How to find a match for your future.

Multitudes of students strive towards professions they see as potentially lucrative, making for a lack of qualified employees in sectors without the reputation for making people wealthy.

This survey was conducted by asking students at eight universities to fill out a form about their ideal career path. The selection of students was random, although some of the schools are inherently self-selective, and balanced in terms of gender. This survey is not statistically relevant.
Cambodia’s labour force is falling short of the needs of domestic employers and faces challenges from a growing youth population - this was the report from Jeremy Mullins last week in an article in the Phnom Penh Post about a report from the National Institute of Statistics.

Some wonder why university graduates have so much trouble getting a job in a country where there is a lack of highly educated people. The frustration of making an investment that doesn’t seem to be paying off is understandable, however, as with all investments, understanding the potential pay-off of different majors is essential.

Hard work and commitment are the surest ways to a successful future. Yet, it is not hard to find driven students who graduate and struggle to find work because there is an oversupply of applicants chasing the same career path. It only requires a rudimentary understanding of supply and demand to know that, regardless of your ability, the number of people competing for the same job as you decreases your chance of getting it.

Moreover, the fact that multitudes of students strive towards professions they see as potentially lucrative, such as business and management, makes for a lack of qualified employees in sectors without the reputation for making people wealthy, such as agriculture and education, but wherein top-level jobs still bring in a healthy salary.

In order to get a better sense of what students want to be, and how their interests compare with demand in the work force, Lift conducted a random survey of 200 university students, asking them about their professional motivations. To simplify the research, we created five categories that we think best encompass the career opportunities in the Kingdom. We asked students what job they want to do in the future and why.  

Service jobs
It could be said that this is the broadest category in our survey, but Lift isn’t the first source to point out that the majority of Cambodian university graduates have their sights set on service jobs, which included law, marketing, banking and business, among other similar jobs, in our analysis of the survey. The recent report form the NIE said that far more students were interested in fields such as agriculture and construction, where qualified employees are in high demand but short supply.

As many as 53.50 percent of the students we surveyed chose service related jobs when asked what they wanted to be in the future.  The samples showed that they wanted to be service workers such as lawyers, marketers, managers, bankers and accountants, running their own businesses, or being staff at NGOs.

Iv Vandy, an economics student at the Royal University of Law and Economics, said: “I want to help contribute to development of Cambodia’s economics in term of banking.” He knows that the field is overcrowded, but hopes that he will still stand out. “My knowledge gives me confidence that I will have the job I like in the future.”

Although teaching is one of the few fields of study in the Kingdom that almost guarantees a job upon graduation, there is only a small segment of the university population striving to teach. Part of the reason may be that teachers are known to be underpaid in the country, and if interest in business-related jobs is an indication, money matters in terms of what people choose to study.

A total of 13.50 percent of our sample population chose education as their ideal occupation, expressing their desire to teach a range of subjects including English literature, Khmer literature, maths and chemistry.

Ly Chetra, a second year student at the University of Cambodia, hopes to help educate Cambodians as a teacher once he graduates and has a plan for how he will do it. “Urban schools often require teaching experience,” he said. “I will probably work in the provinces to get experience while also helping the people there learn.”

None of our respondents said they want a job that requires “lower level engineering skills”, such as construction workers or mechanics, who Kevin Britten, managing director at Top Recruitment, told the Post are in high demand in the Kingdom, but a number of students want to work in related fields as designers and managers. As many as 13.50 percent, exactly, of our sample of 200 (the same ratio as education) told us they wanted to work as engineers, architects, IT experts or in other jobs related to technology.

As a fourth year student at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, Taing Sothearith will graduate with a specific skill set that the work source demands, according to reports and human resources experts, who say will make him an attractive employee. The civil engineering major, however, is unconvinced that this field of work will be the most lucrative work option down the road. “I will switch to another job if it pays better than engineering,” he said.

Eighty percent of the country works in agriculture, but if our respondents are representative of the greater population, most of them wish they didn’t. Only 12 percent of our sample of students said they want a career in agriculture, which included rural development, agribusiness and other professions related to animals and farming, a ration disproportionate to demand according the employment agents who say that expansion and advancement of agriculture in Cambodia, through greater investment in the industry, will lead to a demand for related experts to manage more valuable assets in agriculture.

Phoung Sophanit, a student at Royal University of Agriculture, wants to reduce poverty in the country, not an uncommon goal in our survey, but his approach was unique. “I want to help farmers have a better yield in animal ranching to reduce poverty in the country,” he said, adding that he has been doing related work in his province since he was in grade 12.

“Most parents want their kids to be doctors or laywers,” was Kevin Britten’s assessment of what careers are being pushed on Cambodian students, but their preference isn’t shared by their kids, if our survey is suggestive of the entire university population in Cambodia. Aspiring doctors, nurses and pharmacists account for only 7.5 percent of the students who responded to our survey.

Hoeung Sophon, Director of Department of Labor Market Information, said that the sector with the most employees is agriculture, representing 72 percent of the labour market, followed by 19 percent for service jobs, 8 percent for industrial jobs.

He said students should consider the long term prospects of their employment decisions, acquiring skills related to jobs in oil and natural resource extraction, for instance, rather than the garment sector.

However, David Symansky, recruitment manager of HR Inc in Cambodia,  said the country has a serious shortage of experts in many disciplines, including qualified professionals in medicine, technology and mechanics. “There are a lot of jobs available,” he said. “But highly skilled multi-lingual staff members are difficult to find.” This is the reason, he said, that companies bring in staff from overseas.

Regardless of the field you prefer, the best way to put yourself in position for the job you want, agreed Hoeung Sophon and Symansky, is to commit yourself to getting the skills and knowledge needed to be a capable employee once you graduate. It is always possible that you will get the job of your dreams, but the likelihood that it happens is tied to the job you choose.


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