PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which represents most of the country’s export-oriented garment factories, will establish a training institute with the aim of replacing more than 8,000 jobs in the garment industry held by foreign workers with a highly skilled local workforce.
Construction of the Garment Training Institute, to be built inside Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, will begin by the end of July and is expected to be completed within 18 months, according to GMAC secretary-general Ken Loo.
“This [institute] will allow the industry to grow roots in Cambodia,” he said.
According to Mr. Loo, the plan has been in the works since 2008, but events including the global financial crisis and 2013 Cambodian elections got in the way. Recently, however, the French development agency offered a $3 million loan for the project, giving it new impetus.
GMAC is seeking technical advisors to help set up the institute. Courses have not yet been finalized, but Mr. Loo expects there to be a variety of subjects and course levels that will prepare Cambodians for skilled garment sector jobs, from pattern-makers to marketers. Long-term training will start with 240 people per year, with an eye toward growth.
There are 8,000 positions currently occupied by expatriates to be filled. Mr. Loo expects to train that number within about five years, improving the competitiveness of the local workforce.
The garment sector is one of Cambodia’s economic pillars, employing about 700,000 people and generating $6 billion a year.
Ath Thorn, head of the country’s largest garment-workers union, said the project is a good idea and will help bridge the skill gap of local workers. “It’s good because right now the training has to come from the employer and often they don’t do it,” he said.
He advised, however, that GMAC should work closely with unions and take on some of their leaders as consultants or advisors. He said if unions were not involved “it may be difficult for poor people in rural areas to access the skill training.”