Gaining real-world experience outside of the classroom can be difficult for youth in Cambodia. Internships remain limited, and most graduates lack practical skills when they enter the job market.
A Feed the Future project in Cambodia has responded to this gap in on-the-job training opportunities by designing a 3-month internship program for undergraduates. During this program, students gain valuable job experience by working alongside technicians in the field.
Prum Channratha was one of the seven students selected for the first pilot cohort in 2013. He assisted Feed the Future aquaculture and fishery technicians in Kampong Thom province, and the skills and knowledge from this experience inspired him to pursue an advanced degree in biotechnology. He is now just one semester away from graduation and hopes to use his education to participate in fisheries management with the Cambodian government at the provincial level. He described his time spent as an intern with the Feed the Future project as a practical application of the concepts he learned in the classroom. “It was very hands on,” he said. “I helped technicians take pond samples and lead training events. Every day was different.”
Aing Sereyrath worked with program foresters in community forests in Pursat when she was an undergraduate student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. As part of her internship, she learned about forest boundary demarcation and management techniques for growing and cultivating trees. “Community forestry management using new computer programs such as ArcGIS is very interesting to me,” she said. Now, Aing is part of the geographical information system staff at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Learning from Feed the Future technicians gives students like Prum and Aing a head start in their career fields, providing them with valuable practical experience. The internships help prepare the next generation of agricultural extension service providers who will educate farmers on the latest agricultural technologies and techniques.
In fact, two student participants were offered scholarships to universities in Japan and Thailand to pursue their master’s degrees because of their internship experience, said Pheng Soklin, the program coordinator of Royal University of Phnom Penh. “Students who joined the internship program gained good opportunities to interact with professionals and to build up their network,” she said.
Sip Pagnasoley, deputy director of the Department of Policy in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said the program gives students “real insights into the challenges facing the agriculture and natural resource management sectors.” Most of the 50 students who have participated in the program have gone on to assume positions with the government, private sector and donor organizations.