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Empowering Youth through Digital TVET for Economic Diversification

   Posted on 28.05.2024 by Content Admin, The Khmer Times
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OPINION | Sar Puthirith and Kov Phanna are fellows of Adenauer Young Scholars for Excellence (AYSE), a public policy training program co-organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Cambodia and Institute for International Studies and Public Policy (IISPP) of the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP).


Sar Puthirith & Kov Phanna | The Khmer Times

CAMBODIA. The Khmer Times (21 May 2024) - The quality of Cambodia’s labor force has long posed challenges to its economic growth and diversification. This challenge is underscored by the fact that 85% of the workforce did not complete upper secondary education. This raises concerns about the future workforce’s capabilities in the country, particularly in light of rapid advancement in digital technologies. Recently, the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) has launched the Pentagonal Strategy – Phase I, of which one of the key priorities focuses on strengthening technical and vocational education and training (TVET) through digitalization. This highlights the government’s recognition of the vital role of digitalization of TVET in developing a skilled workforce capable of responding to the labor market demand and contributing to national socio-economic progress.

However, the question comes down to what the digitalization of TVET means. The digitalization of TVET signifies the integration of digital technologies to improve the sector’s operation and performance while leaving its technical and vocational characteristics unchanged. Based on this definition; therefore, this article will shed light on the promising opportunities of TVET digitalization and its pivotal landscape in the Cambodian context.

Addressing Skills Gap and Mismatching
The digitalization of TVET will play a crucial role in bridging the skills gap and addressing the mismatch between skills possessed by the workforce and those demanded by employers. According to the Asian Development Bank in 2022, Cambodia faced a critical skills gap as skills training provided by TVET institutions appears to inadequately address the workforce demanded by the industries. This resulted from an absence of a skills matching system and collaborative partnerships among relevant stakeholders regarding information sharing on skills demand and industrial expertise with TVET training institutions. Utilization of data collection tools, including KoboToolBox, SurveyMonkey, and Google Forms shall be practiced by stakeholders including, but not limited to, technical training institutes (TTIs), private sectors, etc.

In this process, the private sector should provide information about jobs and skills they need or workers’ changing skills composition. Collected data will be analyzed to explore the insight behind employment and skill trends, identify skills gaps, and tailor learning and career consultation. The results of data analysis should be subsequently turned into a visualization dashboard using software like Microsoft PowerBI, Tableau, and Oracle Analytics. These softwares have been developed for data analysis and are driven by descriptive statistical analysis. Despite the subscription fee, these softwares provide efficient functions for graphic visualization, and rich insight. Important decisions shall be driven by provided graphics. TVET training institutions can use this data analysis to develop training courses in response to industry needs. Nevertheless, users shall be able to secure a financial package for either annual or monthly plans.

Deconstructing old perceptions and opportunities for youth
Another noteworthy point is that TVET has been misperceived and underappreciated. Research from CDRI, titled Cambodia Education 2015: Employment and Empowerment, suggests that TVET has not been well-known among Cambodian youths and their guardians. This technical education has been thought of as second choices compared to the normal academic pathway, unsuitable for women, laborious, and dirty. Most importantly, TVET was categorized as unsmart, with low grades and school abandonment. Hence, the TVET digitalization auspiciously deconstructs these misperceptions. Digital learning materials, interactive modules, and student portals promisingly advance coherence and productive vocational education. The TVET digitalization can change and equip trainers with innovative pedagogical skills. Eventually, the trainers could widely transfer the technical skills, likewise soft skills, and digital practices to their students directly. In addition, with innovative, smart, and creative learning methods, adequate digital infrastructure, potentially transform and bolden the relevancy of TVET. It elevates its popularity and essentialness in economic development and ceases perceiving TVET as a second choice. Furthermore, this further consolidates and accredits TVET in the Cambodia Qualifications Framework (CQF).

The eventual beneficiaries are Cambodian youths. This is an opportunity to transform and equip digital literacy, at least the foundation. Presiding over the graduation ceremony of the Cambodian University for Specialties in early 2023, the former Prime Minister, Hun Sen, laid out the plan to provide and support vocational training to 1.5 million youths. Six months under the seventh legislature administration, 30 thousand youths have enrolled in training programs. This was highlighted during the press conference by the Government Spokesman Unit in February 2024.

Hence, a successful digitalization of TVET will tremendously benefit youths, specifically the poor that potentially be granted in the 1.5 million program. Through the provision of costless training programs from the government, those young people could be qualified as skillful workers and, ultimately, digital citizens.

However, this process requires a strong commitment from all relevant stakeholders. A clear and huge financial support package needs to be secured for digitalization. Parallelly, ensuring accountability and transparency in the process of digitization must be monitored. A few points should be seriously taken into account. First, the MoLVT, especially the Directorate General of Technical Vocational Education Training (DGTVET), shall digitize their way of working. They should be the role model, and steer the entire process with other stakeholders. Through workshops and events, the ministry shall digest their successes, foremost practices, and benefits to the public. Subsequently, training providers are obliged to adapt those practices to their institutions.

However, it must be underlined that encouragement is essential, and the adaptation of ICT takes time and effort.

Second, database management and informative portals should be thoroughly reviewed. The TVET Management Information System (TVETMIS) should be redesigned to be user-friendly, informative, and attractive. The chief information, including the trend of skills, popular jobs in the industry, and high-demand labor should easily be accessible and streamlined. In addition, the system should attach the link to recruitment agencies like the National Employment Agency, Bongthom, etc.

Third, in addition to the second point, hosting either a website or database on live requires high security. Technical and maintenance groups shall be established with high cyber security capability.

Websites shall be updated regularly with the latest technology. Passwords should be secured and driven by strong policies, with expert administrators. While the database relies on physical server infrastructure, physical risks like fire, server case damage, hot storage room shall be bypassed.

Last but not least, DGTVET, specifically the Department of Standard Curriculum, NGOs, and private sectors jointly decide, develop, and approve the modules that require digitalization. Since it is costly, working groups should create a list of priorities and work on those modules accordingly. Subsequently, digital training materials packages shall be embedded in the current curriculum and widely used across all technical training institutes (TTIs).

Promoting economic diversification and foreign direct investment
Digitalization of TVET will promote economic diversification and attract foreign direct investment. The government recognizes the importance of economic diversification in reducing the heavy dependence on agriculture, garment manufacturing, and tourism, as well as creating new opportunities for economic growth. The digitalization of TVET is believed to play a pivotal role in this effort to equip Cambodian laborers with the skills necessary to thrive in emerging industries that are rapidly evolving towards digitalization. Providing training in high-demand industries, after matching skill and competency with the current and future labor market needs, will help create a more diverse, competitive, and resilient economy that is less susceptible to external shocks. This will potentially attract more foreign direct investors who look to capitalize on a hub of Cambodia’s skilled workforce, technological innovation, and conducive business environment. Investment in the digitalization of TVET will help position Cambodia as an attractive destination for foreign direct investment, leading to job creation, technology transfer, and economic growth in the digital age.

What does it mean for Cambodia?
Digitalization of TVET in Cambodia will represent transformative opportunities to shape how skills are taught and acquired and address the skills gaps and mismatches through a more collaborative partnership, creating a workforce that can thrive and succeed in the digital age. It also helps Cambodia position itself as a hub of talent and skilled workforce in the region, magnetizing foreign direct investment and economic diversification. This will drive the transformation of Cambodia into a skills-based economy and ensure economic development and competitiveness, ultimately realizing an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.


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28.05.2024
Content Admin
, The Khmer Times