A $15 million USAID-funded initiative aimed to help young Cambodians to compete in the digital economy has been launched to fill the growing digital skills gap in the country.
Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Hang Chuon Naron, noted a rise in demand for digital and ICT skills. In the post-Covid recovery, it is predicted the market needs more people with higher digital skills to enable this new economy to grow.
In response to the need for more skills, the minister said the ministry has decided to give the National University of Management a second campus outside Phnom Penh for the Faculty of Digital Economy.
“I’m very happy that we are here this morning to launch a new five-year USAID Digital Workforce Development Project, which aims to improve educational outcomes to Cambodian young people and professionals,” said Chuon Naron at the launch ceremony. “So that Cambodia can produce the workforce to meet the needs of the new economy.”
The Minister said USAID’s Digital Workforce Development Project will work directly with universities and private institutions in Cambodia to improve and strengthen the quality of curriculum and courses related to ICT skills and improve soft skills, which are important for the job market.
The five-year project will be implemented by the University of California at Berkeley, along with Cambodian partner institutions, both private and state-run.
US Ambassador Patrick Murphy said the project complements Cambodia's strategy of using technology to increase the value of the country's products, diversify its exports and help small businesses thrive.
“The more diversifying that Cambodia can do with its products, the greater potential for increasing export”, Murphy added.
“Cambodia has a very young population, more than 70 percent of the population are under the age of 30 or 35, and it is a population that is increasingly digitally savvy and hungry for more. Now it is a critical time to prepare Cambodia youth for the up-and-coming digital workforce”, said Ambassador Patrick Murphy.
“Local universities, community colleges and businesses are facing the challenges of limited preparedness of students who enroll in Science, Technology Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) programs, as well as in digital literacy”, he added.
The US Embassy said in a statement that the project will improve the digital skills of Cambodia’s youth and professionals. This will enable the country to improve its competitiveness in a global economy that is increasingly technology-reliant and requires a digitally skilled labor force.
The project’s activity will be working with Cambodian higher education institutions to strengthen courses and programs for students in the areas of information and communication technology (ICT).
The embassy said the priority in this new project is to provide scholarships and networking opportunities for Cambodian students and youth to build their skills and find jobs that match their education.
According to the embassy, the project will bridge Cambodia’s private sectors and local universities by creating job opportunities through internships in collaboration with the private sector.
“The project will put a high priority on inclusivity to ensure that youth from all backgrounds can access the opportunities it will offer”, the embassy said.