The Royal Government of Cambodia is clearly committed to increasing the standards of education throughout the Kingdom, demonstrated by the continued trend of education receiving the highest allocation in the National Budget, with almost USD 1 billion earmarked for 2023. While the private sector recognises and welcomes this improvement, employers across the board continue to report challenges in finding quality applicants for recruitment, due to the considerable skills gap that exists between the education delivered and the skills that industries require. For the rapidly developing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the skills gap issue is even more prevalent.
As a result of the growing demand for ICT services in Cambodia, a large number of training facilities have established themselves alongside existing universities to offer a range of ICT focused courses and qualifications, such as those from tech companies Huawei and Fortinet. Unfortunately, as the sector lacks a recognised qualification framework, the quality of courses delivered within Cambodia varies considerably, and much of the learning can be out-of-date and bears little relevance to the industry.
While many Cambodians are becoming increasingly tech-savvy; thanks to the high penetration of mobile devices, computer literacy continues to fall well behind, leaving many graduates unprepared for the job market and with qualifications that hold limited value both within Cambodia and internationally. This includes basic technical competences such as operating a computer, web searches, and using basic work software; however the utility of such competences are also tied more widely with the development of analytical, critical thinking and problem solving skills, where Cambodia is also lagging behind other countries.
Although Cambodian universities and the private sector have begun collaborating to bridge this gap, this has largely been focused on securing internships for students rather than involving ICT businesses in curriculum development. Consequently, as curricula rarely takes into consideration the needs of the industry, students are well below professional expectations, therefore businesses are required to effectively retrain many of the fresh graduates that they hire.
While most ICT businesses recognise that recent graduates will need on-the-job training due to their limited technical experience, many businesses are finding that they are forced to teach foundation level skills, such as basic arithmetic, which should normally have been completed during early education. Businesses are required to heavily invest time and resources into each graduate, which they often struggle to recoup due to high turnover, with staff choosing to leave after a relatively short period to obtain higher salaries elsewhere.
Impact on business
While the surging uptake of mobile devices by Cambodians presents a significant opportunity for ICT businesses to offer innovative technology focused solutions, the severe lack of home-grown ICT skills greatly reduces Cambodia’s ability to remain competitive within this ever-changing industry. To service this demand, businesses are forced to invest substantial resources into the training and development of recent graduates or spend considerably more to retain and recruit experienced local and international staff to fill the gap. This causes the cost of labour to increase and unbalanced with regional competitors, since there are only a limited number of experienced candidates available. These increased costs damage the Cambodian ICT sector’s ability to remain financially competitive, which is essential as many ICT projects are no longer geographically dependent.
This additional financial constraint further impacts the more fragile start-up ICT businesses, which are often seen as the lifeblood of any competitive ICT sector. Start-ups require staff that can work independently, with minimal training and for a low cost, as their contribution is rewarded through valuable professional experience. As a result of their limited resources during the early growth phase, start-ups do not have the capacity to support the level of training required for many Cambodian graduates. The lack of cost-effective talent, significantly limits the capability of startups to grow organically and could allow foreign entities to gain a foothold in the Cambodian market before local businesses can.
- Promote greater engagement between training providers and the private sector to improve ICT courses and accreditations to address the skills gap.
Recognising the efforts already made by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to enhance education standards, we recommend that Royal Government of Cambodia seek to promote greater engagement between training providers and the private sector to improve ICT training and accreditations standards. Doing so would closely align with the aims of the adopted Capacity Building and Research and Development Fund, which intends to encourage human resource development through private sector support.
While we acknowledge that the development of a recognised education framework for the ICT sector is a lengthy task, we suggest that training providers collaborate closely with the sector to develop their courses, as businesses are best positioned to understand the current and future demands of the industry. The private sector can provide support to training facilities to create a needs-led curriculum by reviewing course material, teaching methods and validating examinations. This could be done through first, the institution of a comprehensive gap analysis. Following this, more training facilities should seek to offer technical certifications such as Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle, as these internationally recognised, professional programmes have been designed for a specific use and career progression in mind.
We anticipate that promoting closer coordination will follow the success that increased public-private engagement with the Ministry has shown, and pay dividends in the longer term by enhancing the productivity and competitive advantage of Cambodia’s ICT workforce, in line with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s policy agenda to diversify the economy.
Royal government of Cambodia
Initiative from Eurocham: The issue has been raised by the Digital & Technology Committee within The White Book edition 2024 in the Recommendation No. 25.
EuroCham Cambodia, through Digital & Technology Committee, hosted a ‘Digital Future Forum: Building Tomorrow’s Digital Foundation’ on the Tuesday 30th of January 2024, Mr Pisal Chanty, representative of the Cambodia Academy of Digital & Technology (CADT) as informed the audience the roadmap has been approved by all the relevant ministry and now needs to be approved at the Council of Minister level.
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications