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What employers want

What employers want

Graduates lack reliable information about job market, says new report

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

A new survey to be issued tomorrow gives a voice to students heading into the job market and examines the needs of the employers who will hire them.

A new report has found that Cambodian youth face many challenges in finding employment - and that employers find it equally difficult to recruit youth with the right skills.

The Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), recognized by the government of Cambodia and international agencies as the representative of employers on labour-related issues, will launch a landmark report on youth employment in Cambodia tomorrow.

The report, sponsored by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), represents a significant first step in promoting understanding and dialogue on a critical issue to Cambodia's future - the mismatch between supply and demand in the labour market.

CAMFEBA hired consulting firm BDLINK to conduct the largest-ever survey of youth and employers about their challenges and expectations relating to skills and employment.

Around 2,200 youth and 220 employers were surveyed in five provinces - Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kampong Cham and Svay Rieng - and asked for their views on issues such as access to education and training, quality of education and training, career aspirations, job hunting experiences and the types of skills demanded in the labour market.

Youth are confronted with several difficult decisions at crucial points in their lives - about family commitments, study and career options, and internship and employment opportunities. One of the key findings of the survey was that youth find it difficult to make these decisions because they don't have access to accurate and reliable information.

For example, when deciding what to do when they finish high school, more than two thirds of students surveyed rely on the advice of their parents only. Information provided by schools or teachers or their own understanding of the job market was not an influencing factor. Similarly, only 33 percent of university and vocational training students chose their field of study based on their perception of market need for those skills.

Bridging the skills gap

These findings highlight the need for government agencies, education providers, employer associations, unions and NGOs to find ways of providing youth with useful information on study and career options.

The study also looks at the issue of youth employment from the perspective of employers. Senior managers operating in all economic sectors were surveyed about the skills they require from young Cambodians.

Practical tips for young job seekers

  • Think carefully about what to study - speak to as many people as possible about different types of careers.
  • Study hard - make the most of the opportunity and remember that what you study is not necessarily what you will become one day - you have many options.
  • Gain practical experience through internships, volunteering or part-time work.
  • Look for job advertisements in English-language newspapers.
  • Look for jobs posted on the various Cambodian jobs websites. Useful websites include www.phnomphenpost.com, www.bongthom.com.kh and www.hrinc.com.kh.

In terms of education requirements, around 96 percent of employers require some form of higher education when hiring professional staff, with 72 percent requiring a bachelor or master's degree. This requirement is highest in the NGO and professional and business services sectors, and lowest in the garment and hospitality sectors (where an associate degree or skill certificate is generally sufficient.

In terms of skills, the overwhelming feeling of employers is that there is a "skills gap" in the labour market. Employers need a workforce that has the necessary practical and technical skills to take their businesses forward, but these skills are often in short supply. Only 13 percent of employers believe that graduates have all or most of the skills they need for work.

More than half of all employers say it is very difficult to find professional staff with good analytical and decision-making skills.

Employers have strong views on what can be done to bridge this skills gap. They stress the importance of youth developing skills that are practical and relevant - by choosing courses that are demanded by employers and by learning practical skills through internships, volunteering or part-time work.

In contrast, most employers place relatively low importance on completing more than one degree, studying overseas or even getting good marks. Developing the right skills involves much more than just getting the right qualifications.

Employers also highlight the need to improve the quality of higher education in Cambodia, in terms of accreditation standards, course content and teacher quality.

Giving youth a voice

The report also looks at ongoing training needs and makes a first attempt to collect data to forecast jobs - an initiative CAMFEBA will continue to build on as it develops labour market information systems to assist employers in better informing and stakeholders of employer labour force needs.

The main findings of this report are being disseminated to all stakeholders, including youth, employers, unions, youth associations, NGOs, education providers, the Government and other interested parties.

Debates about education and employment often take place ‘above the heads' of youth - by officials, NGOs, education providers and employer associations. With this survey, it is refreshing to hear the perspectives of youth themselves on the issues that directly affect their futures.

Sandra D'Amico is secretary general of the Cambodian

Federation of Employers and Business Associations.


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