The Swedish embassy yesterday provided $2 million to the Academy of Culinary Arts Cambodia to train students to become chefs from 2018 to 2020.
The aid follows a similar three-year grant that ran from 2016 to 2018 with a budget of $3 million.
After signing the agreement, Pierre Tami, CEO of ACAC, said that hospitality in Cambodia is evolving, noting that the number of tourists arriving in the Kingdom is expected to reach six to seven million by 2020.
Mr Tami said the strong growth of the tourism sector meant that it is the right time to invest in training students to enter the hospitality industry.
“The industry is looking for skilled staff,” he said. “They want workers with skills, but don’t know where to find them in Cambodia.”
He added that youth entering the workforce are struggling to find jobs as they are turned away due to a lack of skills.
Mr Tami said employers in the hospitality sector are turning to skilled workers from outside Cambodia to fill the void.
This skills gap among Cambodian workers must be addressed and the aid from Sweden will allow the academy to get the job done, he said.
ACAC is a new hospitality training institute established as a public-private partnership to deal with the rapid growth of the tourism industry in the country.
It is the first culinary academy in Cambodia with an international hospitality curriculum that aligns with Asean and Swiss standards.
Mr Tami said that ACAC offers scholarships to poor students and women, noting that 11 students are already enrolled under its programmes.
“Our maximum capacity is 200 students per year,” he said. “For the long-term sustainability of ACAC, we need to charge tuition fees from students.”
“We thank the Swedish government for the subsidy today,” he added.
Currently, the academy is being subsidized by donors, keeping tuition fees low for those not on scholarships. Student fees currently only cover half of the school’s operations costs, with the remaining half subsidised by donors.
In total, the ACAC will have received $5 million from Sweden by 2020.
Samuel Hurtig, head of development cooperation at the Swedish embassy, said that ACAC will provide the hospitality industry in Cambodia with qualified, trained and certified culinary professionals through high-quality and innovative educational programmes.
“We understand that vocational training is very important for the future of Cambodia,” he said. “This is a unique academy. We will continue to be partners of this academy.”
“Skills development in the hospitality sector in Cambodia are of high importance for the future growth and prosperity of the country and its people,” he added.
Luu Meng, president of the Cambodian Tourism Federation, said that Cambodia needs about 4,000 to 5,000 chefs every year due to the growth of the tourism sector.
“We badly need professional chefs and professional cooks,” he said. “Professional chefs will contribute to the health of customers.”