Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Heng Sour recently explained how Cambodia is actively pursuing a modern industrial development strategy, which places a premium on skilled labour.

This approach is designed to foster a favourable investment climate, generate employment opportunities under agreeable conditions, enhance productivity levels and ultimately augment income for citizens.

While accompanying Prime Minister Hun Manet on a September 1 visit to garment factories and manufacturing enterprises in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, just outside the capital, Sour highlighted the robust state of the labour market.

Sour noted a high employment rate and a workforce comprised of approximately 11 million individuals. He added that the government implements policies to support the labour market and create more job opportunities.

Of the estimated 11 million workers, he noted, 2.5 million are employed in the industrial sector.

“The government has consistently expanded the national budget to enhance and modernise vocational education and training, with the goal of cultivating a skilled workforce with strong knowledge and technical expertise,” he said.

“They are also committed to fostering high-value modern industries through additional policy initiatives,” he added.

Chea Vuthy – acting secretary-general of the Cambodian Investment Board (CIB) and Cambodia Special Economic Zone Committee (SEZ) under the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) – stressed the importance of expanding local industries to diminish an over-reliance on material imports.

While addressing the First Business Forum 2023 organised on August 11 by the Cambodian Oknha Association – a body made up of people with the honorific Oknha, a title bestowed on those for their substantial contributions to national development – Vuthy explained that it is essential to develop human resources and implement programmes which enhance workforce skills to fulfil the demands of the automotive and electronics sectors.

“We possess sound investment laws and favourable incentive policies, supported by robust infrastructure. However, a critical aspect that demands further attention is the cultivation of well-defined skills within our workforce,” he said.

“This is precisely why the government has initiated a policy targeting vocational training for 1.5 million young individuals, aimed at addressing these requirements,” he added.

Tan Monivann, president of the Cambodia Automotive Industry Federation, agreed that a shortage of skilled labour remains a challenge, potentially hindering the execution of modern industrial strategies and the advancement of the automotive and electronics sectors.

“The shortage of skilled labour is primarily due to the education system’s failure to incorporate technical and vocational education and training [TVET] into high school curricula,” he said.

“TVET students tend to forgo higher education, yet enjoy similar salary prospects as their non-TVET-educated peers,” he added.

He noted that the labour ministry has established several TVET schools, albeit with relatively small numbers of enrolments.

Monivann expressed his confidence that forthcoming plans to provide vocational training will effectively address the shortage of skilled workers. He expected this to boost investor confidence in the automotive and electronics industries.