In response to heightened concerns about employment prospects by young people and a tight job market with stiff competition for placements, the National Employment Agency (NEA) – run by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training – will hold a monthly job forum throughout 2023 in collaboration with nine private companies.

Nuon Pheary, 27, arrived at the NEA on the ministry compound seeking a job or at least assistance with her search for one. She was not alone.

A resident of Boeung Tompun I commune in the capital’s Meanchey district, Pheary said she headed to the Phnom Penh Job Centre run by the NEA after hearing that they were holding the job forum that day.

The forum, at least to start out with, has nine private companies enlisted to collaborate with the centre. The companies will announce new job opportunities at the forum and eligible candidates can apply and get interviewed for them immediately.

She said the career she covets the most is employment at a bank as she just graduated recently from a university with a degree in finance and banking after studying for four years, and because she’s been interested in the sector since high school.

“After I’ve already spent four years in college, I would regret having to give up on my banking skills and knowledge and pursue something other than that. But I’ll consider any job right now, though I really want to go into banking,” she said.

Morn Sokheng, 20, is a resident of Roka Leu village in Khpab commune of Kandal province’s Sa’ang district.

She said she has three siblings and is the second child in the family. She studied at Prek Ambel High School in her commune and was in the 11th grade before she dropped out due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the country was experiencing the worst of the pandemic, her school required all students to study online. But after the situation improved she never resumed going to school because she felt she wouldn’t be able to catch up with where she was supposed to be and understand the lessons so she dropped out.

“I do not continue to study now because, firstly, I do not have any money. Secondly, I am afraid of school. I am not motivated enough to go back to school. But now if it turns out that I have to study again, I will do my best. My dream is to finish school and go to college,” Sokheng said.

According to the young woman, she came to the job centre after seeing the ministry’s announcement saying that they will hold the job forum in Phnom Penh. She said she needs to earn money to help her family and hopes that she will get a job suitable for her abilities.

“I want to work although I have low education because, firstly, I want to earn money to help my parents and, secondly, I could then support myself in order to get further education. If I return home without a job I will ask the principal of Prek Ambel High School if I can continue my studies even if he asks me to repeat the 11th grade,” Sokheng continued.

Nuon Phinan is a human resources liaison officer at AEON Specialised Bank who has been assigned the duty of collaborating with the NEA to recruit staff through the agency.

He told The Post that the bank was established in 2011 and currently has 13 branches nationwide. His team at the bank is specifically designated to work with the labour ministry and other government institutions to recruit staff for their firm.

He added that through this partnership the bank has already recruited young people who were looking for jobs and some of the staff members at the bank today came to them through their ministry contacts.

“The labour ministry finds a lot of human resources for us. Because the ministry has their own website advertising job announcements in various fields,” he said.

Phinan emphasised that AEON’s recruitment is open to both genders and anyone between the ages of 18 and retirement can apply without discrimination.

The applicants have to have finished at least the 12th grade in order to be accepted by the bank and the candidates have to be willing to make AEON their sole place of employment with no jobs on the side or elsewhere.

Phinan explained that recruitment at the bank doesn’t take age into consideration because AEON bank has a lot of different jobs available from managerial positions where they will prefer older candidates with a lot of experience down to the lowest level entry positions which may be more suitable for younger applicants.

“At AEON bank, we also do not discriminate against people with disabilities. We encourage people with disabilities to apply with us if they wish to work at our bank and they are competent to perform the required job duties,” he said.

The ministry’s job forum is open to all levels of applicants looking for work and young candidates can apply and be interviewed immediately, as can older more experienced candidates.

Last month the job forum team selected about 100 candidates to conduct interviews with and about 40 of them passed and were extended job offers.

Phinan stated that for candidates who have been selected as employees of Aeon Specialized Bank, if they want to work in their home province then the bank will allow them to transfer to that province they want to go if and when jobs become available.

“But the experience the bank has had with recruiting here is that most of these applicants want to work in Phnom Penh, often because they came to study in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Chhom Sokhoeun, director of the Phnom Penh Job Centre, told The Post that it has organised meetings between employers who are recruiting a larger workforce and those who are in need of jobs and the basic purpose of the job forum is for both job-seekers and companies to meet in one place conveniently.

“The employers have the opportunity to meet with potential employees by participating in the job forum and the company can often get employees with a good amount of knowledge and skills here,” he said.

He stated that for the job forum there are nine participating businesses working in different sectors, so their needs range from unskilled to highly-skilled candidates with all sorts of different backgrounds and skills because these are larger firms who might be hiring for every position from custodians to clean the floors on up to an executive or middle manager.

“We’re not just inviting the big companies that need the largest labour forces, but we also invite employers in every other sector to participate, including those that recruit unskilled workers as well. We want to make sure that youth and students have the opportunity to meet with employers easily as the main goal,” he said.

Sokhoeun said that the Phnom Penh Job Centre provided over 2,000 candidates with job information in 2022. He said the majority of them were able to find work through the event and they hope to increase that number of people served greatly for 2023.