Cambodia: ‘Lack of staff to cope with vital move to Industry 4.0’

Only one in five companies in Cambodia feel their staff have the skills to take advantage of opportunities in the digital economy, according to a survey by DataU, USAID and the American Chamber of Commerce.

They contacted more than 200 organisations in the Kingdom from companies with fewer than 50 employees to conglomerates with more than 1,000 workers.

The survey showed that smaller firms were more positive about Industry 4.0 – the move to a data driven high-tech economy. DataU Managing Partner Joseph Telfer said that may be because small companies are not fully aware of what is coming and may not have old technology that will need to be upgraded. He said bigger companies may be less optimistic because they plan to undertake more new projects and will have to find more skilled workers.

Only one in 10 respondents said they could find talent at the right price and only one in five thought their existing staff had the skills needed to achieve a digital transformation in the next five years.

“With these emerging new trends and technologies investing in talent and getting ready for Industry 4.0 is absolutely crucial,” said DataU Managing Director Ioni Spinu. “Globally, we’re looking at 11.4 million new data specialists being required and some of those new specialists are going to join the workforce here in Cambodia and in the regional market. It’s great that we have demand that grows by 29 percent year-on-year but the challenge that we have is that the supply only grows by 14 percent,” she said.

DataU is a Phnom Penh-based college offering short courses in hard skills including data visualisation, Excel and Python along with soft skills such as problem-solving, communication and critical thinking.

Their six-month programme is now being supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent agency of the US government. USAID has invested more than $300,000 into grants to students and employers who want to upgrade their data analytics skills. Part of the funding is helping to cut the cost of placement fees paid by companies to secure skilled DataU graduates from $6,000 to $3,000.

“What we’re doing is offering job training for Cambodians, for individuals who have lost their employment due to Covid. We’re part of the economic recovery here,” said USAID’s Cambodia Mission Director Nancy Eslick. “It’s going to increase incomes for individuals, for families, for communities but also for companies.”

Many of the companies taking part in the survey said they relied on social media sites such as Facebook to target customers and sell their products. As a result the majority of respondents said the skills most needed for the next five to 10 years were social media management, digital marketing and data-driven customer experience, ensuring it lives up to expectations both pre- and post-purchase.

The survey also offered a word of warning to older employees. It found that companies believe their senior staff may not have the skills to continue in their positions.

“We know the population pyramid. We know that Cambodia’s future will be carried forward by its youth but we still have this group of 40-somethings in Cambodia working in offices, requiring digital skills,” said DataU ‘s Telfer.

He said companies that want to keep their experienced staff need to send them on short training courses so that they can also share in the company’s transformation to Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.