The Ministry of Public Works and Transport, in cooperation with the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), is organising an undergraduate training programme teaching skills related to the construction of roads and bridges in order to increase Cambodia’s technical capacity in this area.
This initiative was created in order to address a striking shortage of Cambodian engineers and other skilled construction specialists relative to the booming construction sector and the rapid pace of the country’s development, which has led to a heavy reliance upon foreign-born workers in this sector in order to keep up with the frenetic pace of building in cities like Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.
Ministry spokesman Vasim Sorya told The Post that this training programme was initiated by Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol who had asked a working group to collaborate with ITC to design a curriculum teaching the skills necessary to build roads and bridges.
In the past, these two institutions had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that sought to address this issue, but the MoU has never been implemented fully.
“We plan to do this in cooperation with ITC, and now we’ve begun the process of planning for that. We signed the MoU with ITC previously, but we still need to review it. We’ve worked with ITC in the past and sent some of our teachers there to provide skills training, but this will be a larger effort than that because there is a huge need right now, today, for more skilled workers,” he said.
Sorya added that Cambodia didn’t have the technical expertise yet to build anything more ambitious than simple roads or bridges.
Chanthol said that it is an issue that can no longer be put off or ignored and he hopes the skills training program that ITC puts together will begin to tackle this issue.
“For a typical high-rise building, Cambodian engineers have the ability to design those blueprints and build them. But they have no ability to study and build large bridges spanning rivers or expressways.
“We have always asked for aid from [foreign experts] and we’ve hired [foreign engineers] for building these bridges and expressways. Once we have some Cambodians with these skills, we will reduce hiring foreigners from abroad, because Cambodia should be built by Cambodians whenever possible,” he said.
Chanthol further noted that another benefit to training Cambodian youth in engineering skills was to promote the development of Cambodian technical capacity on the international stage, a goal which was in line with the government’s policy to prioritise development of human resources along with construction of basic infrastructure.
He also urged the working group at the ministry to examine the possibility of cooperating with ITC so that the schedule for the implementation of the training programme could be sped up and the programme put in motion in January of next year.
Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia president Sok Kin welcomed the training course, saying: “When Cambodian youth have these skills, they will not need to migrate from their homeland seeking work abroad. Even when our construction workers do have the necessary skills, they still don’t have any proper certifications acknowledging that they are this level or that level. A formal program for training to earn professional certifications is what we have wanted to have for a long time,” he said.