One of the most common complaints of employers in Cambodia is the difficulty in finding candidates properly qualified to carry out specific roles. New graduates are not always equipped with the skills that their certificate suggests, creating a gap between what is available and what is required. And there is a good reason for that: Despite a plethora of new universities claiming international standards, few of them appear to be designing programs to address the skill deficit.
A recent survey conducted by the Education Ministry revealed the poor alignment between the skills supplied by the higher education institutions and the needs of the private sector, with the majority of students highly concentrated in certain fields. Among those surveyed, 52% of students were enrolled in just five bachelor programs: banking and finance (12.9%), English studies (11.8%), accounting (11.6%), general management (8%) and information technology (7.2%).
And although offerings are clearly expanding and diversifying, enrolments in new programs are modest (about 2% of total enrolments), and are characterized by the same concentration in the same fields, such as management and business-related courses (28%) and society and culture-related courses (18%). While universities are anticipating significant growth in enrolments in the coming years (8%-12% per year, from 230,000 in 2014 to 360,000 in 2019}, they do not necessarily seem to be encouraging a bridging of the skills gap.
Soft skills, or transversal skills, are particularly weak among university graduates, as well as foreign language proficiency skills. A shortage of English-speaking graduates and of those with strongly developed critical thinking, problem solving and entrepreneurial skills are likely down the track. This can have a negative effect on leadership and teamwork, attitudes and values at work, and verbal and non-verbal communication. This situation is to the detriment of entrepreneurs, who must dedicate significant portions of their budget to in house and external training, and therefore to overall investment in Cambodia.
“52% of total Bachelor enrolments concentrate in only 5 programmes”