Tourism Ministry to Build Vocational Schools

The government plans to build two vocational training centers in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville in an effort to strengthen the competitiveness of the tourism sector in Cambodia, the minister of tourism said Monday.

Speaking at a conference on ecotourism at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said that the current quality of services at tourism facilities such as restaurants and hotels must be strengthened through more rigorous training and education.

“That is why Samdech Prime Minister has allowed the Tourism Ministry to cooperate with AFD [Agence Francaise de Developpement] to build two schools—one in Phnom Penh and the other one in Preah Sihanouk,” he said.

Construction on the schools will start next year, with the French development agency supplying 12.5 million euros (about $14 million) as part of its commitment to address the mismatch between skills and market needs in Cambodia’s labor market, according to Laure Montchamp, a project officer at AFD.

An 11 million euros ($12.3 million) loan will be given to finance the training centers, while a grant of 1.5 million euros ($1.7 million) will help facilitate communication between the Tourism Ministry and five key private sector groups, including the Cambodia Hotel Association and the Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association.

The grant agreement was signed on May 19, with the loan expected to be signed by the end of October.

“Construction should start by the 3rd quarter of 2016. Designing of the schools should take 4 months, and construction should take one year. So the schools should be operational for academic year 2018,” Ms. Montchamp wrote in an email Monday.

The schools will teach skills including cooking, waiting tables, hospitality management and guiding, according to Ms. Montchamp. The Phnom Penh school will train 1,000 students each year, and 300 will be trained per year in Sihanoukville. Although the schools will charge a fee, scholarships will be available.

“We want students, especially those who pass the high school exam…to look at gaining vocational skills in tourism,” Mr. Khon said, adding that by 2020 Cambodia’s tourism sector would need almost 400,000 more employees.

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