Why Cambodia needs programmers and it is the last time to hurry up?
Cambodia is a developing country with strong focus of economy on manufacturing and agriculture. To sustain the country development it is essential to grow talents and skills to be able to bring to life the desired economical transition. All around the world 21st century economical development is dependable on technology. If we look at the most developed countries in the region we can clearly see the benefits of it. Just see an example of Singapore.
Interview with Ms.Nataly Rodionova, Managing Director of IT Academy STEP Cambodia, a professional training centre that provides education in programming and computer graphic and design and have managed to establish a reputation of one of the best places in Cambodia for the technology related education.
Please tell about yourself:
I have been in Cambodia for more than 2 years and came here on an assignment to establish a branch of IT Academy STEP. Our vision was to bring high quality international education to Cambodian students, making it affordable and accessible. We saw there was a growing gap in the country: with economical development the need for skilled professionals is growing, but the availability of skilled professionals was very very low.
Why so small number of students in Cambodia choose to study technology?
According to the data, released by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport only 8% of students enrol in IT related programs after they graduate a high school. That is very low, especially if we take into consideration that many of the students who enroll do not really take their studies until the end and drop off.
Most students choose to study business and banking – that happens mostly under the pressure of families, which consider business/ accounting career a safe choice, that would guarantee employment. Also, I guess, many students just do not know about job opportunities or consider it is very hard to study computer science, thus choosing a simpler option.
Education is an investment into the future and the best choice for a student is to think – where the jobs would be in 2 or 3 years? Which industry is the growing one? The answer is obvious – these are industries connected with technology. IT professionals, programmers are now required in all across the sectors and since we already observe a lack of qualified professionals, the gap will be just growing. That means I can guarantee, that only IT students would never worry about their jobs.
Recently, we also see a strong focus from the government to support STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) education. The Ministry fo Education Youth and Sport has a clear plan to strengthen that area.
Our Academy tries to contribute to educate the society by running free workshops and presentations to explain who are programmers, designers, IT engineers. We also have a Junior Computer Academy to teach secrets of computers science to younger learners starting from 8 y.o. I can see some positive changes in the Kingdom, but we need a stronger focus on technology.
What can we expect in the future?
So right now we can see that there is a growing gap between the demand and the supply of available programmers in Cambodia. To get a proper education student would spend 2-3 years and then he or she would need also get more experience. So to grow a qualified professional we need about 3 years, minimum. That means the gap is there at least for 5 years. But in 2020 the world would move to the next wave of technological advancement – robots, artificial intelligence, virtual reality – that would be applied and accessible not just by few companies and people, but across all industries and all countries will face the change. To support this technology based economy a country would need about 4 – 6% of workers to be in IT. If we consider Cambodian population, that means that in order to ensure country’s competitiveness there is a need for at least 400 000 programmers! Now I do not think we have more than 2 000 of those who work in IT.
Can Cambodia fill in this gap?
In a short period of time – hardly possible. Like I have mentioned before – education is a long term investment. IT industry is not an easy one too – it is constantly developing, new technologies, programming languages, interfaces etc are being introduced. Though I should admit that is not only Cambodian problem. Such countries as US, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Japan and many others admit that there is a growing shortage of IT specialists and they run special relocation programs to attract specialists from other countries.
What can Cambodia do to support technology development?
I think that most important is to support IT industry and grow interest for computer science among young people. Show them that IT skills are important and can help them even at a very young age to have salaries and good jobs. If you have skills and a great idea – you can easily find funding and create own company. There are new amazing opportunities emerging in Cambodia!
Are there any age restrictions to study IT and programming?
We accept students from 15 to 55 years old. Currently our youngest student in the professional programming course is 15 years old. He is still a high school student during the day time and study programming professional course in the evenings. Imagine, when he will be 19 he will have international certificates and education that would allow him to apply to any international company or even create his own start up. We also have a student who is 52 years old and study Web design with us. He is a successful person with a passion and understanding that it is never late to study.
Why some countries have more developed IT industries?
That is simple – because IT industry development becomes a strategic focus in economy. Singapore has announced they are building Smart nation and they have been supporting IT industry as their priority. Take example of US – Silicon Valley has became a paradise for IT start ups from all over the world. India has early understood the value of technology and now it serves as an IT outsource hub for the whole world.
What can you wish to Cambodian students?
Already now IT Academy STEP gets requests with job or internship offers for IT students every week. We see growing demand for skilled professionals. So do not miss this opportunity for yourself. Be persistent and study hard – the success will come!
Interview also on www.bizkhmer.com