Should Cambodia’s universities train more telecom engineers or artificial intelligence (AI) engineers? This is the question posed by a digital and innovation policy director to an audience of more than 100 people, most of whom were university rectors, deans of digital technology, CEOs, CTOs, and senior management officers in tech companies.
“It’s hard to hire” is a phrase that is often heard in the private sector these days.
To address this issue, a ‘Digital Skill Competencies Framework’ is being developed to support university students, businesses, and training providers to meet the growing demands of the job market.
At a workshop on the Digital Skill Development Roadmap on Friday at Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT), inputs from private business leaders were gathered to shape the framework.
The framework identifies seven skill tracks: digital infrastructure, cybersecurity, data governance, software and application, data and AI, digital communication and marketing, and digital innovation and entrepreneurship.
Presenting the ‘Digital Skill Development Roadmap in Cambodia,’ CADT’s Pisal Chanty, director of digital and innovation policy, said that since 2017, there have been about 3,500 information and communication technology (ICT) graduates each year.
He said that 10 percent of university students study Bachelor degrees in ICT, while 42 percent study business (accounting, banking, finance, management). Foreign languages, social sciences and arts, engineering, law, and health, among a few more, represent less than 10 percent each of the total proportion.
The roadmap aims to address any future shortage of skilled supply by providing a framework for Cambodia’s higher education institutions. It assesses the current status of digital skills in Cambodia and identifies existing skills gaps.
The assessment found that there is a shortage of skilled workers in a number of areas, including software development, cybersecurity, and data science.
Other gaps are there is a low enrollment and graduation rate in digital skill programs offered by higher education institutions (HEIs). The digital skill programs offered by HEIs are highly redundant and lack specialization. There are also skill gaps in digital and soft skills, and foreign languages. A lack of digital talent is another major challenge faced by both ICT and non-ICT firms.
Seng Sopheap, president of CADT, said that universities have their own models for running their businesses. However, the ‘Digital Skill Competencies Framework’ will help inform and prepare education providers to have a clear picture of the evolving demands of the present and future digital workforce.
According to Pisal, the need to formulate the ‘Digital Skill Development Roadmap’ derived from policy direction and the trend of digital transformation. He added that the ‘New Pentagon’ strategies of digital economy and society development is one of the new angles. Others are digital economy and society policy framework, digital government policy, and regional and global trends.
Prepared by the Supreme National Economic Council, ‘Cambodia Digital Economy and Society Policy Framework 2021-2035’ was released in May 2021. One of the key policy measures is to “develop the comprehensive strategic plan to promote the education, training and development of digital skills in higher education and at all levels of technical and vocational training, as well as to promote curriculum improvements to match the training with skill demands”.
The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, with support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS), has begun developing a digital skills development roadmap.
According to MoEYS, there are 53 higher education institutions offering digital skill programs, with more than 36 in the capital city. The top programs are computer science, business information systems, and telecoms and networking.