Published: Dec 20, 2021 Reading time: 5 minutes
© Photo: National Vocation Institute of Battambang (NVIB)

People in Need (PIN) is working with partner organisations to strengthen the quality of secondary technical education in Battambang province, in northwestern Cambodia. The project pays special attention to the agro-food processing sector.

Piloted at the National Vocation Institute of Battambang (NVIB), one of the goals is to equip young members of the community with skills that are in high demand.

PIN is working to ensure that students have adequate access to the high-standard training programme, equipment, and facilities. Supporting agro-food processing will increase youth employment in the sector while creating new value and a market for the products, which will eventually lead to higher productivity and higher incomes. Indispensably, small businesses play a great contribution to local communities. To stimulate stronger economic growth at a broader scale, small businesses are key.

In Cambodia, PIN has been implementing the Partnership for Employment and Skills Development (PESD) project for this past year, with the Czech Development Agency as the main donor and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) as the project co-funder and co-implementer.

Training future business owners

Chanteng, a 20-year-old high school dropout, took on a new challenge with the newly launched agro-food processing course. She found information about various technical programmes via NVIB's Facebook page, and this course caught her attention.

Before this, her family’s financial hardship forced her to drop out after ninth grade. She then worked in a local restaurant to support herself. “I was completely lost after dropping out of class,” she says. “I had no proper skills and was clueless about what my future would hold. Not having any goal in mind really stressed me out.”

She decided to enrol in a four-month free course offered by NVIB. Chanteng was able to equip herself with skills that she had previously never heard of. This programme helped her form a clearer image of her future prospects. “I am more than grateful for this training opportunity. We were offered everything as a trainee. A free-of-charge training, free materials for practical sessions, and a dorm to stay over while taking practical sessions,” says Chanteng.

Throughout the course, she learned how to process fruits and vegetables, jams, and juices. Lessons also included training in product preservation and proper hygienic practices.

Different backgrounds with a common dream

During the most recent course, PIN was joined by 20 students from a range of backgrounds and life experiences. There were housewives, small business owners, high school dropouts, new high school graduates, and even people who had never studied formally. Chanteng said that most of her classmates plan to supply fruit and vegetable juices to local markets. Some want to open their own stall. Despite having different backgrounds, everyone shared a common goal.

After finishing the course, Chanteng wants to work in a local food processing enterprise while she saves up enough money to kick start her own micro-business, perhaps in two years. She wants to run a mini juice stall once she has enough resources and skills. “I am so excited that I have a proper skill and dream,” she says. When asked what will make her products special, she says that it’s about quality and production technique. She can assure her customers that the drinks are made with proper measurements and techniques derived through a training programme.

Learning amid COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an ongoing challenge for programme participants. For instance, Chanteng struggled with remote learning. For practical-based learning, distance learning is not as effective s in-person. It took them four months to take classes online. Fortunately, they have caring trainers with a high sense of responsibility. They always ensure that all students are on the same page and familiar with the lessons.

“There was a group chat and our trainers always followed up with us if we have any concerns,” says Chanteng’s classmate. “Even though the practical sessions were only two months, we were grateful for the amount of effort that was put in by our trainers.”

As for safety purposes, everyone had to strictly adhere to hygienic measures. It’s common practice for both food processing activities and COVID-19 spread prevention.

It takes a village to achieve favourable outcomes

Students’ positive take on the course makes us proud as project implementors. PIN Cambodia is grateful to support the institution and students on various aspects, including a renovation of the food processing lab, new classroom facilities, and the provision of ongoing capacity training to technical teachers. These all play a part in strengthening the curriculum quality and helping young people equip themselves with market-relevant skills while linking them to potential employers in the sector. Project donors, partners, and supporters from both private and public sectors have all contributed to this achievement.

“We got to establish such a good training course thanks to PIN’s PESD project supported by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training,” says NVIB Director Ngounhort Hen “The financial and technical support we received from development partners [is] priceless. It helps us [deliver] quality programmes and improve human resources.”

Learning is a never-ending process

For a four-month short course there are three certificate levels, including the Technical and Vocational Certificate I, known as the C1 certificate. Chanteng says she will continue with the C2 and C3 certificates next year. “If time allows, I will surely enrol in a bachelors degree after completing all three certificate levels,” she says. “Gaining life-long skills is crucial for individuals – no matter how old they are. 

Autor: Sophika Kun, PIN Cambodia Communication Officer