Let us talk a bit about the employers’ participation in higher education. These are private or public industries or businesses that employ graduates of the higher education system. Their participation in the education provision is significant as it can help improve the disconnect between the academic programs and their skills demands.
The gap between higher education institutions and the skills needs of employers is a challenging issue everywhere. Cambodia is no exception. This gap is often affected by ineffective curricular and pedagogical approaches that do not meet the needs of services and manufacturing, an imbalanced distribution of students across disciplines, and a misaligned institutional combination.
Today, the employer engagement is increasingly seen as an effective way to improve the relationship between higher education and the labour market. Many countries have already adopted this approach in their attempts to ensure higher education produces human resources that serve the needs of workplaces.
The employer engagement involves higher education institutions working closely with industries and businesses in a number of ways. Among other things, universities and industries can collaborate on research, knowledge transfer, placements and internship, and workplace learning. Universities can seek financial support from the industries to improve programs that affect the industries, or they can involve employers in the design and delivery of programs.
What can we get from such cooperation? A few reasons stand out. Sastry & Bekhradnia (2007) explains that if the courses offered by higher education institutions can be better aligned with the needs of employers, productivity will improve. In the meantime, if employers can be persuaded to contribute financially, there is the prospect of increasing the pool of highly qualified people at a reduced cost to the government budget for higher education. Cambodia very much needs both of these outcomes.
Cambodia has taken steps to relegate this. The employer engagement approach has been picked up by some key higher education institutions. The Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, for example, has sent its students to do mandatory practical work at various major media organisations across Phnom Penh, giving them a chance to gain valuable hands-on experience before graduation. This program allows both parties to communicate and work together to improve the study program and thus the disconnect between themselves.
Moving forward, we should make sure that employers participate more in the higher education sector, to help improve higher education effectiveness. In the meantime, we should come up with initiatives to encourage higher education institutions and industries to expand their cooperation and collaboration to other areas beyond the internship program so that both parties can maximise their contribution to social and economic development.
Sastry, T., & Bekhradnia, B. (2007). Higher education, skills and employer engagement. Oxford: Higher Education Policy Institute.