Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Engineering professor says construction workers need more hands-on experience

Engineering professor says construction workers need more hands-on experience

Labourers at work on a construction project in Phnom Penh. Sat Dara says graduating engineers need more hands-on experience.
Labourers at work on a construction project in Phnom Penh. Sat Dara says graduating engineers need more hands-on experience. Photo supplied

Engineering professor says construction workers need more hands-on experience

Post Property leaves no stone unturned in its search for the best information on Cambodia’s property and construction sector. Moeun Nhean sat down with veteran engineering professor Sat Dara to listen to his take on the current state of training and education of the kingdom’s construction workers.

There’s no doubt that the construction sector in Cambodia has been marching rapidly forward. However, the pace of development has sparked concerns that the industry’s evolution in the kingdom is problematic on two fronts. First, that price rises cannot be sustained in the medium term, and second, that vocational training for construction workers is not of sufficient quality.

Prof. Dara, many thanks for sharing with us your insights today. Can you introduce yourself to our readers please?
My name is Sat Dara, an engineering professor and a senior officer of the Board of Engineers Cambodia (BEC). I have studied overseas, where I majored in numerous subjects but particularly engineering. I have also worked overseas as well and I am currently involved in several construction projects in Cambodia.

Tell us about the training of those in the construction sector in Cambodia. What institutes or training centers provide vocational training to workers who major in construction and engineering?
Currently, Cambodia has many training centers, institutes and universities that provide vocational training related to construction. Workers who major in construction at a vocational training institute must complete one full year of study. College students who have finished high school have to go through two years of studies plus an extra year for the necessary extra core subjects, with which they may not be familiar. University students in engineering have to study for five years.

A degree in construction skills is available at Phnom Penh Polytechnic Institute, as well as at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia at Kob Srov Dam. The Don Bosco and Dam Dek schools also offer qualifications in engineering and construction. The Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) as well as private universities such as Norton and Build Bright, teach these subjects too.

Of these institutions, the ITC has the biggest capacity. It can welcome up to 1,000 students a year because it can provide bachelors’ and higher degrees too. Other schools accept only a few hundred students.

What is the job market like for engineering graduates? Is there work out there for them?
Every year, thousands of students graduate who have majored in engineering and construction. 95 percent of them have already got a job, while some others decide to run their own companies. From my own observation, about 25 to 30 percent of students are so outstanding they get a job during their second year at college or university. In short, there is a very big demand in the employment market for skilled construction workers as well as a big demand for other experts every year.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Engineering professor Sat Dara. Photo supplied

Has the Cambodian construction engineers’ vocational qualification responded well to the growing development of this sector?
Construction companies are looking only for experienced staff. They put skilled workers right at the top of their priority list. Therefore, our students have to earn their experience through working in companies or on construction projects before they officially apply to a company. It’s right that companies are doing this; but our local training centres and universities still lack workshops for hands-on skills practice and experimentation. We need students to get more of this practical experience before they go into the sector.

As a professor, I would like to request the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport or other education centers or universities to establish workshops where students can actually practice on their own. This is the same as what training institutions in developed countries are doing. When I studied overseas, the students had the chance to apply their lessons with the teachers. Therefore, we were already practiced in our skills while we were still at school.

During the last few years, I’ve seen some companies offering internship opportunities to our students to gain experience.

The important insight that I want to share with all the students is that you must try very hard and be certain on both theory and practice. That’s because after you graduate, you should have sufficient knowledge to work straight away. Don’t rely solely on getting experience; if you do, we will always be behind other ASEAN countries, because once they get their certificates, they have already obtained the practical capability to work.

How many locally trained civil engineers are there in Cambodia?
I don’t have an accurate figure of how many of them are in Cambodia, but our team at BEC is compiling information on these human resources and other relevant documents. There’s a total of about 3,000 engineers who are members of the Board of Engineers Cambodia, and they are very active in the current construction industry.

MOST VIEWED

  • 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

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Eighty replacement peacekeepers set for Mali mission despite Covid

    Eighty Cambodian blue helmet soldiers who completed the peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella in Mali will return to Cambodia on Friday, said the Centre for Peacekeeping Forces spokeswoman Kosal Malida. “To protect their families and communities from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 80 are required to