Preparing Cambodia’s Workforce for a Digital Economy: KAS Report

The Cambodian office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung has just released their latest report, providing insights on how our local workforce can better brace themselves for a digital economy, including how approximately 5.1 million jobs will be lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period of 2015 to 2020.

The report was based on research and a survey on 61 companies and more than a hundred participants from various tiers of leadership hierarchy in both private and public spheres.

Even as one of the fastest growing countries in the region, the Kingdom still has more to do to sustain its healthy growth in the long term, most crucially, diversifying and modernising its economy to open Cambodia’s doors to a digital future.

With a goal in sight, many obstacles still lay ahead before the government’s plan of transitioning Cambodia into a digital economy by 2030 becomes a reality. Relevant skill gaps need to be addressed, namely content skills, social skills, and technical skills.

Founders cite a lack of human resources with the right skills, limited digital infrastructure, lack of leadership, insufficient funding, lack of local suppliers of technologies and supportive policies as barriers preventing companies from taking advantage of digital trends.

On a fundamental level, there is still a lack of understanding of the digital economy among the workforce, with three-quarters of workers finding that they are unable to rely on their company to provide them with training to improve their skills. Within the workplace, the majority of companies use basic technology but very few expose their employees to newer technologies such as video calling, online storage and productivity tools.

Among businesses, a majority of firms believe that digital technologies will significantly transform their industries, however only 22% note preparing for a digital future is their priority, and even less have a strategy for doing so. An interesting point to note is the recurring concern among business owners that their staff will leave the company after receiving the training.

For company owners wondering where to start, the report has gathered the opinions of firms in understanding the ICT skills they believe will be relevant in future.

Recommendations

It is crucial for companies to begin regarding a digital future as part of their company’s vision, for starters, to have clear digital strategies based on skill demands, bearing in mind business operations, future investment, human resource planning and development. As part of this, an integral component would be upskilling employees with digital hard skills and soft skills.

In a rapidly expanding economy, more entrants and players would call for companies to stay competitive through research and development in relevant new technologies. Businesses can explore methods to increase productivity and upgrade products and services.

The local government is responsible for maintaining a healthy ecosystem by monitoring emerging labour market trends, developing programmes and safety nets to facilitate smooth growth and development in job quality.

The government can lend their support by investing more resources into the ICT sector, placing an emphasis on integrating ICT into the education system. Exposing Cambodians to digital-friendly learning will produce a steady stream of talent for employers in the fields of programming, analytics, robotics, and network security, where it is most needed.

The government is also advised to champion the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, removing barriers and providing incentives for small and medium business owners to start businesses in ICT, upskill their staff and invest in infrastructure.

For workers and workers-to-be looking to be part of a thriving digital economy, personal responsibility must be taken for lifelong learning and career development, with an understanding that graduates must be well-rounded for increased employability, with technological proficiency and cognitive skills.

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