Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that up to 1.5 million young people, who could not afford higher education, will be able to receive free vocational training with an additional stipend as the government seeks to produce more labor skills.
In a speech at a Phnom Penh graduation ceremony, Hun Sen said that the government plans to roll out the scheme in 2024 as it has already approved this year’s budget.
“We are unable to do this [this year] due to the fact that we already approved the national budget, so we will do it next year and cover vocational training students from low-income households who cannot afford to attend college, free of charge and subsidized,” Hun Sen said.
He added that the economy requires not just labor but also skilled labor. Despite the country having potential due to its large young population, its capability is limited.
Therefore, Hun Sen said it is important to develop economic policies to promote vocational training for disadvantaged youths to obtain an education.
“We will deal with around 1.5 million [young people]. I believe the informal economy must be connected with the formal sector and provide more skills that increase opportunities for foreign investment,” Hun Sen said.
He added that public higher institutions are only able to offer 10,000 places to students out of an average of 100,000 students who passed their annual examinations.
He said that with the remaining 90,000 students, it is possible for the private sector to invest in the education industry to boost human resources and skills development in the long term.
He said the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport has allowed those who failed the exam to pursue education for associate degrees and live in a dormitory for education.
Vorn Pao, President of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), said the policy is beneficial for disadvantaged students to pass the exam and have the chance to gain skills to secure a job and income that can support the family and economy.
The integration of informal workers into a formal system will include benefits from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), so they have access to health insurance and protection against occupational risks while being eligible to receive pensions and other social support benefits, Pao said.
He added that the government can regulate informal businesses so there will be income for the state, the economy will flourish, and people will seek beneficial social assistance.
"The skills the informal system requires include hospitalism, food quality, technical skills, and digital skills for attracting tourists, improving food quality, repairing materials, and keeping up with the government's digital society," he added.
Pa Chanroeun, president of Cambodia Institute for Democracy, said that human resource training cannot just focus on higher education. Economically, it requires technical skill training for the short-, medium-, and long-term.
He added that government policies will help impoverished students who are required to respond to labor market demands and attract investment, in which Vietnam follows this approach.
Chanroeun said the government must analyze the labor market's shortage of required skills and incorporate motivation, particularly to modify Cambodians’ perceptions of the value of learning to grasp certain skills.