Cambodia: Systematically measuring success in vocational education

Initial vocational education and training, Labour market insertion
The Skills Development Programme (SDP) of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation fosters vocational education and skills development training of young men and women in Cambodia. By the end of 2021, more than 2,500 young people and workers with low qualifications completed vocational training in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Through so-called ‘tracer studies’ (see inset below), Swisscontact is determining how the training has changed young people’s professional situation.

Six months after graduates have acquired a diploma in the fields of electrical engineering, motorcycle maintenance, computer repairs, housekeeping, gastronomy, or other professions, the SDP has begun contacting them to gather information about their current situation.

What are tracer studies?

Tracer studies are an effective tool for gathering valuable data for all actors participating in vocational education and training (VET) programmes. Tracer studies provide information on the employment status of graduates, their income situation and work conditions. This information can be useful in making decisions regarding policy initiatives, regulations, and standards for training and employment. Furthermore, tracer studies deliver data on the quality of available training and the extent to which it meets the qualification requirements of the private sector. They also provide information on the support, services, and counselling given to youth (a service offered by training institutes for up to six months after completion of a training course) and their families regarding opportunities for education, employment, and income generation after the training.

Information from the tracer study is analysed by the project team together with partners and used as a decision-making basis for improving the project approach. This ensures that Swisscontact’s vocational education and training projects are continuously up-to-date in terms of the skills demanded by the labour market and sustainable job opportunities are created.

Nou Soly, a participant in the SDP training course, fills out a satisfaction survey about the training at a construction site in Sihanoukville province.

Nou Soly is one of 370 surveyed graduates. She comes from a rural province in Cambodia and left school after her sixth year. Before entering the vocational training programme, she was unemployed and helped her parents keep house and farm. About a year ago, this young woman contacted the provincial training centre (PTC) to undergo training as a building electrician and obtain a Vocational Skills Certificate (VSC).

Nou Soly and her colleagues receive instructions on the safety and quality of electrical wiring.

Following completion of the four-month theory-based training, Nou Soly completed an internship 500 kilometres from her home, subsequently working as a full-time employee and building electrician within the same construction company. To the question about how she views her situation today, she proudly replies:

"Today I am standing on my own two feet. I’m even setting aside part of my salary to send to my family to help them out. I’d like to get some further training soon in order to improve my skills and find work in Phnom Penh. My dream is to run my own electronics business."

The tracer study encompasses three project stages:

1. Concept and planning phase

During this phase, the project team develops tools for the study. Graduates are surveyed in order to obtain valid results. In addition to the survey, interviews are conducted with their employers on skills and work performance, in order to draw better conclusions on the relevance of the training. The questionnaire comprises 112 questions, both in Khmer and English. For example, it contains such questions as:  

  • whether graduates have found employment (where and what type)
  • how their work conditions and income have changed
  • their job satisfaction
  • whether they are able to apply their newly acquired skills at the workplace, and
  • which skills are needed in their respective sectors.

2. Implementation phase

The team works with students and university graduates experienced in data collection and research. Interviewers are trained beforehand in the practical application of the digitised questionnaire to help them enter data and centralise the results. The work of the interviewers is monitored by the project team and checked for quality. The collaboration also allows for the discussion of tangible solutions.

3. The last phase 

This phase includes analysis of survey data and results. A report presents the various steps, explaining the methodology, and presenting the results of questionnaires and recommendations derived therefrom. The partners participating in the vocational training programme use the report as a basis upon which to undertake evidence-based adjustments, or for further planning and improvements in their training courses.

The Skills Development Programme is a project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). It is being implemented by Swisscontact as part of a consortium together with the Institute for Vocational Training, Labour Market and Social Policy (INBAS) and in collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) along with the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).

Initial vocational education and training, Labour market insertion, Sustainable tourism
Skills Development Programme
The overall goal of the Skills Development Programme (SDP) is for disadvantaged young women and men and low-skilled workers in five rural provinces of Cambodia (Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Kratie, Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri) to gain access to decent employment and increased income.