Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Putting theory into practice

Putting theory into practice

Putting theory into practice

090331_02ict.jpg
090331_02ict.jpg

Cambodia produces too many IT graduates every year for the limited jobs available – and many lack the hands-on experience the sector needs

Photo by:

Sovann Philong

A Cambodian IT student comes to grips with the reality of the workplace.

CAMBODIA's universities are pumping out more graduates than its information technology sector can absorb.

While the exact number is unknown - the Ministry of Education does not release full figures - the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) alone has produced around 500 IT graduates each year since 1997. Norton, Build Bright, Setec and Pannasastra universities also offer IT courses.

Ouk Chhieng, head of the computer science department at RUPP, said only 25 to 30 percent of IT graduates would find full-time work while a further 20 percent would be employed in temporary or part-time positions.

Those lucky enough to find a job were far from the finished product, said Erya Houn Heng, president and CEO of First Cambodia. "They need a lot of guidance in a real working environment and usually require one to two years' training before they can be considered efficient workers."

First Cambodia employs about 180 people in Laos and Cambodia, all drawn from local universities. It recruits around 30 new employees each year, picking just three or four out of every 100 it sees. While the average starting salary for a new employee is $150 per month, experienced workers can earn anywhere from $200 to $4,000 for senior managers.

Norton University graduate Min Phannarak works for software development company Arocore. Incredibly, or perhaps typically, when he enrolled to study IT he didn't even know how to turn a computer on.

He said his degree had not prepared him for work in the sector, and with no computer at home it was difficult to practice his skills.

"At university you learn the theory of software, but you don't know how it works - you are just told that you will need it in the future," he said.

But he was one of the lucky ones, he said. Most of his fellow graduates were unemployed or worked at computer shops for $80 to $100 a month.

They are like rough diamonds that have not yet been polished.

Arocore CEO Kit Hargreaves, who employs 13 Cambodians, said finding qualified graduates was difficult, particularly as no universities or schools in Cambodia taught Flash, a common development program.

Most of Arocore's Cambodian staff did manual database work as their skill levels were still low, Hargreaves said.

"We actually only have a couple of guys I can trust to be really good programmers."

He said a lack of intuition about computers and applications stemmed from inadequate teaching and the fact that few Cambodians had grown up around computers.

"What they learned in school - how to type code in theory or how to follow instructions in a book -  isn't what makes a good programmer," he said.

"What makes a good programmer is being able to apply old technologies or established bits of code in a new and intuitive way, which is something Khmers have a long way to go in grasping."

Sous Sakal, business development manager at software design firm Blue Technology, said Cambodian programmers needed more practical work experience.

"I think local universities produce quality students; [but] they have not yet had the opportunities to develop to their full potential," he said.

"They are like rough diamonds that have not been polished."

MOST VIEWED

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea