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Siem Reap – When Siem Reap provincial town hosted a job fair in January, the dominant messages were: the province has a lot of potentials to reap benefit from tourism growth and reduce poverty level by improving quality of skills, education and access to accurate labour market information.
Siem Reap provincial office held the two-day event on 19-20 January jointly with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, and the National Employment Agency. The first of its kind to have taken place there, the fair provided a venue for job seekers, employers and training providers to meet and exchange ideas about employment opportunities and skills needed in the country’s main tourism hub.
Siem Reap governor, H.E. Sou Phirin, said the fair was a “timely response” to the challenges facing the tourism industry. One of them, he noted, is the shortage of skilled labour to fill the needs of the fast-growing industry and its relevant sectors.
“All of this requires our utmost attention to address,” he said in his opening speech at the fair.
The United Nations Development Programme in Cambodia provided support to the job fair as part of a broader effort to assist Siem Reap provincial authorities to draw up a plan for human capital and skills development for the local population.
The tourism industry in Siem Reap is a major driver of local and national economic growth and creates employment for hundreds of thousands of people. However, poverty still persists in Siem Reap. According to the Commune Database 2012, which contains comprehensive information on a wide range of socio-economic issues, Siem Reap is ranked the 8th poorest province in Cambodia. Lack of employment at home has forced many women and young people to travel across the border to work, often in harsh conditions and without legal protection.
Representing UNDP at the fair, Mr. Natharoun Ngo, head of the Poverty Reduction Unit, said the continued growth in the tourism industry in Siem Reap will undoubtedly offer more job opportunities to the local residents. But, he said, training centers and universities in the province, which operate with limited quality curriculums, “have not yet generated enough skilled workers to meet the demand of the industry.”
“All local tourism related actors in Siem Reap needs to pursue their efforts taking into consideration increasing regional competition if they want to meet good quality standards that have been achieved by our Thai or Indonesian neighbors within their tourism sector, to name a few,” he said.
The fair drew more than 3,500 visitors many of whom were university students who one day will enter the job market. Representative of public and private sectors made a series of presentation about job opportunities and vacancy in various industries to the audience. Dialogues ensued and brought to light issues of concerns to young job seekers such as preparation to enter labour market and skills development.
“As Cambodia moves towards economic integration together with its ASEAN neighbors, the need for increased national investment in strengthening Cambodia’s greatest asset – its young people – becomes more and more urgent,” Mr. Natharoun Ngo said.