“My studies have been suspended for months, and I remain unemployed.”
According to data from UNESCO and the World Bank, approximately over one billion children and teenagers worldwide have been out of school due to the closure orders to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The data also includes students in university.
When schools were closed down, students were worried about how they are going to continue learning. The revolutionary shift to digital learning from in-classroom classes has been an answer that many have taken advantage of.
Despite digital learning being useful for some, many senior year university students are worried about jobs availability.
According to a workshop called “Youth and Job Market in Cambodia During and After Covid-19”, organized by the United Nation Development Program in Cambodia, job announcements have dropped 80% during the pandemic. The discussion was led by three speakers: Dr. Pen Rany, Head of Programmes – Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP Cambodia, Sou Socheata, National Project Coordinator at ILO, and Ky Sereyvuth, Advisor of MoLVT and statistical analyst at NEA.
Socheata said that we currently do not have an exact number of unemployed youth. Youth whose work was previously full time are now primarily working part time due to lower demands, according to a survey from an International Labor Organisation (ILO) in Cambodia.
Dr. Rany mentioned that youth who are changing jobs or searching for work are more likely to be affected by the decreasing labor market during and after Covid-19.
In order to gain clearer insight about the youth and job market, Focus interviewed fourth-year student ChhumChai Vattanak, who is majoring in media management in Royal University of Phnom Penh.
What have been some challenges you have faced during Covid-19?
I am supposed to graduate this year; however, I could not take a graduation exam due to the school closing. My studies have been suspended for months, and I remain unemployed. Also, an exchange program to Singapore was delayed due to cancelled flights and border closures to prevent the spread of the pandemic. I would have graduated in the third week of June this year if the world was not battling Covid-19.
How do you deal with these challenges?
I personally have used the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen my knowledge and skills through some digital learning platforms. Many prestigious universities across the world have provided online courses to every student, and this is a great opportunity to keep up.
How do you feel about digital examination?
I have learned more about technology in education, which is a good preparation for the future in case of another pandemic. Learning and taking exams online could become common as we have experienced that now.
What do you think about the job market in Cambodia during Covid-19?
I want to apply for a job, but no one is recruiting at the moment. I have not found a place where I want to work, as I think those companies are using recruitment funding for Covid-19 prevention or for aid for current employees. This is one of the challenges for me because I feel that time goes by, and there is nothing I can do.
Are you worried that you will be unemployed after graduation?
Despite being Covid free, it is not easy to get a job instantly after graduation, but I think it will take me less time. Due to the current situation, it may take more to find a job in your field of study, however.
I think that the companies that I want to work with are recruiting more people, compared to the others in the current job market. I want to work for a larger organization, but they are using their budgets to help the poor and vulnerable people, rather than spending on new employees.
What kind of job do you think is available for youth during and after Covid-19?
Jobs that enable you to work from home are more available during Covid-19, including reporting, designing and communicating. For post-Covid jobs, if you have a background in technology, you are more likely to be employed as technology is now utilized worldwide. Youth should take this opportunity to develop digital skills through online courses and self study as it will be handy in the future.
How have you developed your skills during Covid-19?
Online learning to develop mindsets and strengthen skills can be a resource for future careers. I think crisis management is an important skill for the current situation, which might provide you new ideas to tackle crisis when it comes to work. Also, receiving more information about Covid-19 from a variety of sources would be good for the future. This will teach you how to look for solutions to problems.
How should youth motivate themselves during the pandemic?
Everything is new and unprecedented. I think youth should grab this opportunity to learn and gain knowledge of the situation. Presently, many relevant institutions are using the pandemic as a chance for students to learn. All students should take this time to improve and learn more about themselves.