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Hard skills and soft skills for employment

Sophorn Yann / Khmer Times Share:

People often express the importance of acquiring skills to advance in their career. Here, you are about to submerge yourself into a learning about two skill sets: soft skills and hard skills.

Either as an employee of a company or a self-employed individual, you need both soft and hard skills. Skills can be obtained through education and practical experiences. Hard skills refer to technical capabilities connected to a specific occupation such as an electrician, accountant, a web-designer, a lawyer. Hard skills are acquired through general and technical education, including tertiary education. Completing high-school will open more opportunities for young people to find good jobs (World Bank April 2018); yet the skills learned do not necessarily match with requirements by employers who look for higher and more specific, more technical skills. Technical vocational education and trainings (TVET) are offered at polytechnic schools, institutes, and universities. However, the key is to select a good educational institution that offers both soft and hard skills, theory and practicum.

Soft skills are also important. Soft skills, which are universal, refer to an ability to be able to behave appropriately in different settings and cope with them well. They include creativity, problem solving, communication, interpersonal, negotiation, planning, management and leadership. In Cambodia, youth’s lack of soft skills, especially oral communication, foreign language, customer service, teamwork, taking initiative and flexibility, are among key issues raised by employers, according to a report by the National Employment Agency. Another problem is that youths fail to apply for jobs. This failure as observed is underpinned by two causes: unclear job announcements and poor understanding of job requirements. Companies should have clear descriptions about the job and define example tasks that must be completed. Meanwhile, applicants must learn more about the employer and job before applying which requires understanding the duties and doing personal research.

Who determines hard skills required for work?

Required skills are set by inflows of foreign direct investment, which have been concentrated on textiles, construction, real estate, and tourism (hospitality). Trades and new industries are developing, which also increases the skilled labour within Cambodia, for instance technicians, machine operators, and service-related jobs. Due to the rise of technology and competitiveness in the regional and global market, e-economy has emerged. Some employers will need to automatise some manual work to meet the market demands to stay in the competitive market. How can young Cambodians prepare for this?

About 80 percent of youth participated in the labour market (NIS 2015). Due to economic issues, youth have little choices but to go work at any job they can find. Particularly, young women are chosen to drop their interest and passion and engage in the workplace. By following others into jobs without any proper basic training/education, they are not able to adapt at workplaces, become unemployable or fall into vulnerable employment. However, there are young people who do their own research and place themselves strategically for future jobs. They invest in their education, work/volunteer for experience and build their network. While another group of young people start their own business, they define skills, services and products and create new jobs for the market and they are becoming leaders and driving force for national economy.

Sophorn Yann is a Youth Employment Specialist – UNDP

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