A new career center at the National University of Management (NUM) has been formally launched as part of the "Digital Workforce Development" (DWD) initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The USAID Digital Workforce Development project (USAID DWD) is a five-year project that was initiated in 2021, funded by USAID through the University of California Berkeley to enhance educational results for Cambodia's young and professionals in a global economy that is improving leaning driven by technology and demands a trained workforce.
The major goals of USAID DWD are to encourage young people in Cambodia to seek higher education options in ICT at the local, national and worldwide levels, as well as integrate them into more open and free platforms for marketable digital skills.
Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, said in his opening remarks at the ceremony on December 22 that within the context of the rapidly changing digital landscape, the market requires not just these types of skill, but also soft skills, which includes problem-solving, collaboration, communication, digital, and leadership skills among other.
“The role of the industry should be changing, so it will be necessary to develop practice skills through the use of implemented methods in the classroom. But we must do better and continue to learn in order to respond to the demands of the changing landscape of the job market, especially the use of technology, as well as the changing skill,” Naron said.
Forecasts for the future predict that the need for new skills will continue to emerge. New, fast and old skills will also appear to be relevant and students must continue to learn in order to respond to the changing job market.
He added that business linkage is important. In response, the career center will connect students to different kinds of companies as when students study at university, they study foundation level and general knowledge. It requires moving from general knowledge to special knowledge, especially to link up with the private sector.
"This career center is a bridge connecting students and employers," U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, Patrick Murphy, said. "Students will pursue their chosen career paths, and employers will flourish with equipped and qualified applicants. We are proud to support young Cambodians to meet the demands of a rapidly growing digital workforce."
Murphy added that Cambodia's Development Roadmap aims to have university industrial linkage offices operating in universities across the country. “We are prioritizing universities as central actors in research and development. Vaccines are the product of research and development, which takes place on university campuses,” he said.
“A career center is a concrete way to link jobs and internships with university students. I have benefited from career centers over the course of my previous education. We consistently hear that the most required valued attributes are soft skills, communication, language, leadership, management. A career center is going to help make these connections.
“Good luck with matching with universities. For those who don't succeed, try, try again. Life throws a lot of obstacles at us. I did not succeed the first time, I tried to become an American diplomat. Now I'm here as ambassador to Cambodia.”
The career center will establish connections between institutions and private sector firms to provide internship programs and job prospects for students and young professionals by offering a range of training programs and workshops. It will also satisfy the demands of companies for 21st century capabilities.
The initiative of the project is to enhance ICT certification, short courses, non-degree, and degree offerings from Cambodian Higher Education Institutions (HEIS), increasing Cambodian HEIs' ability to satisfy accreditation requirements. It also aims to increase networking and scholarship possibilities to help young Cambodians develop practical skills and connections to employment prospects.
The career center brings more opportunities to students to build skills developments that will clear students forward for the workplace by focusing on building skills to provide short courses, such as CV writing, interviewing skills, and soft skills. Students will embark on their own journey to improve their skills and build their confidence by communicating with employers.
“So, employers will also be able to use the center as a platform to interact, engage with students, actively cooperating, sharing valuable resources and knowledge through the future workforce. This way students will meet potential employees in the last form of setting, while searching for what they want and to support their study,” said Chanda Pen, USAID DWD chief of party.
Chanda added that the center is being operated at the University to support a facility and the long-term vision for study. It will surround a community where alumni are encouraged to engage with the next generation of graduates and professionals worldwide, giving them valuable insights and relatable advice and mentorship.
Multiple career centers at various partner institutions are introducing the USAID-funded initiative to link students in all subjects of study to their preferred career routes in both rural and urban regions of Cambodia.
"Through USAID DWD, we hope we will bridge the skills gap between Cambodia's private sector and universities. This will be done by creating job opportunities through internship programs that will be curated in collaboration with the private sector.”
In addition, Chanda continued, “There will be a high priority on inclusivity, to ensure that youth in rural areas will also be able to access opportunities through this program.”
DWD will collaborate with the government, higher education institutions, the commercial sector, as well as national and international non-governmental organizations, to develop a more effective network for connecting graduating students in Cambodia with employers.
The career center was created by DWD to be a crucial component of the employment ecosystem, one that involves present students, graduates, and companies from various industries. This self-support center will serve as a role model for other colleges and continue to operate well after the project is finished.
Since 2000 until the pandemic, Cambodia enjoyed an average yearly per capital growth rate of seven percent, placing the economy in the top 15 fastest growing in the world. However, this growth has been mostly driven by sectors with low use of technology and a matching labor force that is less skilled than those of other ASEAN nations (ASEAN).
Cambodia has to spend more on education to build a more educated labor force, with an emphasis on improving abilities in technology usage, if it is to fully benefit from its integration into ASEAN.