International Day of Education: An Insight on Skills Development

Education is a human right and its role for peace and development is undeniable. However, millions around the world do not get full access to education opportunities. Completely demolished during the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia’s education system had to start from zero and slowly developed again countrywide. In recent years there have been major efforts to improve accessibility and quality, though primary school dropout rates remained higher than the regional average and the dropout rate for upper secondary school was at 19.4 percent in 2016. At the same time, the Royal Government of Cambodia, development partners and non-government organisations also put a lot of joined efforts to promote vocational training to help students and dropouts gain better jobs and incomes.

In three provinces of Cambodia, Swisscontact, through the Skills Development Programme (SDP), is collaborating with local government, private sector and vocational training centres to support young women and men who are locked out of formal education system and employed in intensive labour works to develop proper technical, vocational and life skills. Since 2016, the programme has now skilled 1,701 graduates in its fulltime training courses. The graduates in the target provinces – Kratie, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear - are reported to have doubled their income 6 months after graduating from the programme.

Leverage Vocational Education and Local Economy Through Partnership

In the SDP’s target provinces, most of small and unregistered local enterprises suffer from productivity problem. The enterprises generally employ young people who have no fundamental skills and provide them with a non-formal apprenticeship. In return, the employers don’t achieve a desired productivity while the employees cannot obtain a high wage. On top of this, the links between the TVET system and the labour market are still limited resulting in skilled labour shortage. These problems affect directly the livelihood of the locals despite the presence of local economic opportunities in tourism sector and other secondary sectors such as manufacturing, repairs and construction.

Endorsed by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MLVT), Ministry of Tourism (MOT) and Ministry of Women Affairs (MOWA), the SDP trains vulnerable youths on locally-demanded skills such as hospitality, electrical repairing, engine mechanic, masonry, metal wielding, cosmetics, to name a bunch. Upon completion of fulltime training, the trainees are required to participate in an internship with partnered private enterprises to practice and enhance their skills in the industry before they integrate in the local labour market. On a later progress, local industry and enterprises will be invited to participate in the review of the training materials to ensure relevance.

In Kratie, Mr. Thary Kes has earned a living through a metal wielding and supplying business for almost 20 years now. The main challenge to his business expansion is the lack of qualified human resource. Now a metal wielding contract trainer of the SDP, Thary first engaged with the training centre as a partnered enterprise who took the labour force from Kratie Provincial Training Centre.

“I came when the school requested me to join and I also need trainees to have a relevant skill that enterprises actually need. Sometime, what they learn from their books is much different from the market demand, I still needed to train them again at the enterprise on how to perform the tasks,” Thary explains the reason why private sector engagement is important. “When they are skillful, they can help our business grow as well as we help them.”

From School Droppers to Entrepreneurs

The SDP’s curriculum is designed to not only provide the young learners with high-quality technical training but also soft skills, such as life, workspace, and business and entrepreneur skills, that will help them to become responsible citizens after leaving the training centres. At the same time, post training support is also a feature that SDP provides to its graduates to find a gainful employment or self-employment, based on their preferred career path and eligibility.

To date more than 60 graduates, half of whom are women, have been supported to initiate their own business in various industry such as beauty salon, electrical wiring, engine mechanics, tailor and barber.

Ms. Narin Chanthou, a former trainee who graduated from Kratie provincial Women Development Centre, now runs a beauty salon of her own in Kantout commune, Chetr Borei district. She decided to drop out of school at grade 11 due to family’s inability to support her and other three younger siblings’ education. Beautician has always been how Narin envisioned herself as a child, but after dropping out, she stayed home to help her parents do farming and housekeeping because she couldn’t even afford a beautician training course.

“I had to drop out of school because I didn’t want to be a family burden, but I then I couldn’t do much at home as well,” said Narin, “now that I have a skill, my own business and incomes, I can improve my life and support my family gradually.”

Building Sustained Changes in TVET Education System

Results throughout SDP’s first few years have paved a good foundation and trust among all stakeholders from national, provincial to communal level. At national level, Cambodia Qualification Framework (CQF) level 1’s processes and structures are being established under a good collaboration of relevant parties to also ensure a more inclusive, relevant and sustainable national TVET system. At provincial level, vocational training centres are actively engaging with private sectors to build momentum to build an enabling environment for graduates of the skills development initiatives. The example in the three target provinces also sparks interest of vocational training centres in other provinces in adopting the improved curriculum and model. And finally, local authorities and parents in the communities start to trust the vocational training programme to provide quality and relevant training for their young people and disadvantaged groups.

At all levels, the support on technical and vocational training and education is crucial to create the demand for vocational training among young people. As the demand for the skills will grow, the quality of skill training also enhances. It will open a gate of opportunities for young and disadvantaged groups to explore and build a career pathway through vocational skills. The youths, who were locked out of formal education since their early age, are now re-introduced to the formal system with a formal Vocational Skills Certificate, which will help them to pursue future opportunities; and Swisscontact has been always grateful to be a part of this. We create opportunities.

SDP contributes to poverty reduction of disadvantaged young women and men in the three target provinces. Disadvantaged youth across all intervention areas increased their income on average from 44 USD before training to 96 USD 6 months after training completion. The trend of increasing their incomes continued a year after the end of training, when they earned an average of 140 USD per month. This constitutes an average income increase of 318%.  In rural areas the average income per person is around 35 USD a month according to the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey conducted in 2017.

Watch the SDP overview video to learn more about the programme: Economic Development Through Skilled Human Resource in Cambodia.