Saturday, 3 May 2008

Inappropriate Qualification and Lack of Information Make It Difficult for Youth to Find Jobs

Posted on 3 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 558

“In an office of a private company located along Sothearos Boulevard, opposite from the Phnom Penh Center, many people go in and out to submit application forms. The company, which functions as a bridge for job hunters and those who need staff, started in Cambodia more than five years ago, but the director of this private institution still complains that only a small number of students have contacted him.

Ms. Suy Sokha, a consultant of the staff recruitment company HR Incorporated, a leading staff recruiting company, working for other institutions including organizations, companies, and state institutions, said that she finds it difficult to estimate whether there are more open positions than people who need jobs, or whether there are fewer open positions than people looking for jobs in Cambodia. However, she observes that there are anyway many open positions in Cambodia, and there are also many students graduating from universities. The expert said that the lack of information is a major factor which prevents job hunters from being successful. Ms. Suy Sokha explained that most Cambodian students do not know which company or institution needs staff. She said, ‘I think that job hunters and those who need staff seem not to have a chance to meet each other. But to meet would reduce unemployment. Some job applicants do not know where staff is needed. Some international institutions want staff that meets the standard of their countries, so it is difficult for them to find the staff which meets their requirements in Cambodia. To deal with this problem, my company has explained to those companies or institutions that we have applicants responding to only 7 or 8 points of their requirement of 10 points; however, we still hope that they can do the job.’

“HR Incorporated receives around 20 application forms per day. The job hunters are students, graduated from higher education institutions, or they are still students, or those who want to change their job. There are about ten companies in Phnom Penh that help to find jobs. She noticed that now the ability of students is better, compared to previous years. She said, ‘Last year, we could not accept even the curriculum vitae of some students, but now most of them know how to write their curriculum vitae. Though, in general, we notice that the skills that they have learned from school are not sufficient for the jobs. Some students learn computer, but their ability to use a computer is limited.’ Ms. Suy Sokha explained, ‘When accepting a curriculum vitae from an applicant, we check it in order to call them for interviews. We require mainly good English knowledge, courage, and intelligence, but many applicants are not able to meet our requirements.’

“Seeing most applicants’ weak points, Ms. Suy Sokha suggested, ‘Our youth must seek more knowledge from society, by reading newspapers or attending workshops, to gain more knowledge. Moreover, most applicants are nervous during an interview; this is also a factor that makes them loose an opportunity of success in their job hunting.’ Theara, who graduated in management from a private university, accepts that hunting for a job is not easy, although he has earned a bachelor’s degree. The young man said with shame, ‘I work in a hotel and get less than US$100, and this job is different from the skills I studied at school. I have applied to other institutions, but there is no response, so I must continue this job for which I have no qualification.’ Theara continued that there are three factors that make it difficult for him to get a job – first, because there are many job hunters, second, because staff recruitments in different institutions are not announced openly, and third, because their qualification is limited, i.e. they do not have enough work experience. The former student stated that not only he cannot find a good job, but also many of his friends cannot get jobs. An assessment shows that the labor force in Cambodia increases by approximately 300,000 persons per year, while the job market requires only 30,000; so it is very difficult for Cambodian youth to get jobs when they have graduated.

“The independent economist Dr. Sok Sina said that because of the lack of information about jobs in the country, while there is information about jobs abroad, and those jobs are well-paid, many Khmer workers go to work abroad, overlooking the jobs in their own villages. He stated, ‘If we say that our country lacks employment, it is not right, because when we check in some provinces, there are many employment opportunities, but our Khmer youth are not interested. For example, in Kompong Cham, there are potato processing factories and rubber factories, but many citizens in that area go to work abroad; this happens because of a lack of information.’ The economist asked the Royal Government to organize an employment information system so that job hunters and those who need labor can meet each other.

“It should be stated that the report of the Minister of Labor shows that by the end of 2007 there were 505 enterprises and garment factories countrywide, with a total number of more than 366,000 workers including 329,000 women. There were 1,863 enterprises with 74,212 employees, besides the garment industry countrywide, including 29,145 employed women. According to the presentation of the ministry, for the whole year of 2007, there were 47,619 people who got new jobs in the country, and 8,939 people went to work abroad.

“The president of the Cambodian Economic Association Mr. Chan Sophal expressed his view that leaning, which does not consider the requirements of the market, the lack of qualified skills, and the lack of technical schools are factors that make it difficult for many people to find jobs. He raised an example, ‘At present, Cambodia needs construction workers, and bridge and building construction engineers, but such human resources are rare. At most universities at present, they teach mostly economics, and it has no clear focus. Thus, we need to create more technical schools to respond to the market. Such schools are not on the higher education level, but just short term training courses of three or six months. Khmer construction workers cannot compete with Vietnamese construction workers, because the Vietnamese construction workers who graduated from such schools can earn Riel 20,000 [approx. US$5] per day while our Khmer workers who work without any special formal preparation for this job from any school earn only Riel 8,000 [approx. US$2] per day.’

“Dr. Sok Sina said that the future job market of Cambodia will depend on agricultural products rather than on heavy industry. ‘Agro-industry is the potential that our country has. It is a very big market for Khmer citizens. Our country is an agricultural country, so we must process agricultural products by using many factories; that is also our job market. We don’t expect to compete for jobs in the technical field of the oil industry, which we expect in the future, because we have no resources in that sector.’

“Cambodia has than 50 universities countrywide; among which 80% are private. Minister of Education Mr. Kol Pheng stated in a conference at the World Bank, ‘The construction of a school building needs only five years to be finished, but capacity building needs many more years.’
“A director of a private university said that because of the competition to attract students, private schools decrease their tuition fees, making the quality of the studies decline. ‘Private universities are economic enterprises like companies, but because there are many schools, so the tuition fees have to be competitive, and if we do no reduce the fees like others do, we will have no students coming to study at our university. When our income is low, we must cut down the expenses on leaning materials and teachers; this is the factor that limits our studies.’ This is an explanation of the rector of an university, who asked not to be named. According to the same leader, private schools cannot run vocational courses such as engineering, because to teach this field requires to spend a lot of capital.

“The Khmer Youth Association deputy director, Mr. Him Yun, claimed that young people are living without hope, because the government has no clear policy to develop them. This organization’s deputy director stated that youth policy is very important to encourage them. ‘Although we find that the economy grows and the number of investors increases, the Royal government still does not have a youth development policy.’ For instance, Cambodia is an agricultural country but there are few schools offering training for this field. Youth who have the ability to study in densely populated cities do only accounting course - so they will not be able to return to their localities in the provinces. Therefore, they all have to race for jobs in the cities. According to the study of an organization that works with Cambodian youth, only one young person among ten can get a job.”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.1, #30, 1-7.5.2008

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