Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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CaptainNemo
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

Post by CaptainNemo »

CamExpat wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:56 am Is the business training new graduates or are you recruiting / training staff for your existing business?
The business isn't training new people, but when someone asked me would I do it for x baht, I thought to myself, that's actually quite viable, but Thailand has rules about numbers, and if you have more than 6 seats at a time, you have to register as a school and start being prodded and poked and billed for things. So, not sure about that.
You could do it... a training mill... and it might do quite well, but it might be a little dull, and a bit of a digression from what the original idea was.

I recognise that even if I was doing it in the UK, I would probably also have to invest a hefty amount of my own time getting people to where I needed them to be, otherwise the risk of a hire being a wasted investment is too high. I don't want to do lip-service training and coaching for an exam, I want to actually know that they can do what I need them to do, so that further down the line I have a solid team that can deliver and that gives me the confidence to proceed with projects.

The projects are going to be games and applications and embedded systems led by my eldest. The UK business is quite different, to do with space and defence, can't be in Asia or involve other nationalities. I'm relegated to DevOps and admin, because, who else will do it! Training is more of a joint effort. Customers are in the west.
CamExpat wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:56 am What you described having done so far was a bit lengthy and required a fairly big investment of your own time. Would you be able to scale this?
Only by what you might call "pyramid training", so my eldest is now able to train, I've doubled the team size, and through training him, refined the training programme. We each train 2, and then after that, we can leave it to those 4 to train 8, and get on with our other stuff. Again, I'm not really aiming to build a training business.
It's swings and roundabouts... how much time and money can you throw at people you don't know who are always going to be a gamble. People go into interview mode and try hard to sell themselves, and to me, the risk of lost time over onboarding not meeting expectations is more than just a pain in the arse, it seems expensive.
CamExpat wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:56 am There is a startup in Singapore who is taking a similar approach to retrain experienced IT professionals whose skills have slipped using 16 months of training followed by an 8 month industry internship. This meshes well with the SG government focus on lifelong learning and retraining workers as economies shift. He's managed to secure support from the SG government to do so.
If there are government incentives to do this, that would help. Thailand has some, but the conditions are onerous and silly, so I'm lucky to have a niece who's quite bright and who hasn't been SEAsianised yet, it's just a better use of my time, and much lower risk, because the extended family is supportive of it.
A Swedish guy I met seemed to think there might be a market in providing older industrial placement staff from the EU into SEAsia (i.e. Sweden to Indonesia), I never got the impression that SEAasian businesses are biting off western hands for white faces, like it used to be in China 20 years ago.

To me, one of the main things to start with is you need people who are willing and able to pick themselves up after failure and have another go, who will make up for mistakes, and not look at a page of code or algebra and see it as an inaccessible mess.
Obviously there are practical limits to this, but for the most part, it's whether someone will put themselves into "the zone" of burrowing down into the detail, breaking things up, and working them out, and building up from that, so that they truly learn how to do a thing.
In software projects (as in many other things I guess), things will go wrong, and if you don't have that capacity to pick yourself up, deconstruct, analyse, and reconstruct, then projects can seize up and fail, because the people working on them just give up.
CamExpat wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:56 am Generally agree re: self sufficient teams able to complete their own work. You would need a mix of seniority unless they were supported by senior staff out of TH or uk.
At the moment my eldest is in the UK and able to support the others online very effectively. If I was to hire a young Cambodian, I guess one way might be for them to be in Poipet, and to come over the border frequently. Thai immigration seems to be ok about people working online if servers are outside the country.
I'm trying to be realistic, I doubt I can get the staff I want unless I train them to be how I want them to be. I need to know what will get them motivated, more than just $200 or $300 a month, but what makes them engage in things, and read up in their own time.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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Bitte_Kein_Lexus wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:21 pm I don't have any direct experience, but I know someone who works in that field and employs local programmers. He pays them quite well, but says that sometimes they get too focused on one tiny thing, and it's hard for them to fall back and see the bigger picture (whatever that means). Or they'll fail to tell someone about a coding mistake early on, which ends up in a lot of time and $$ finding the mistake and fixing it. Some are apparently also cocky because they know they're some of the best in the country, so that sometimes makes it hard to work with them/point out their mistakes. Again, this isn't from me and I don't know much about the field.
I absolutely expect that, particularly from male programmers...
Bitte_Kein_Lexus wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:21 pm More broadly speaking, I can say that:
1-You won't find fresh graduates very skilled here, even in their "field of expertise". I'm not familiar with Thailand, but there's no question that you'll get a fraction of the knowledge you'd expect back home. It's a bit of a generalization, but it's pretty much across the board regardless of the industry. I know doctors, IT specialists and so on and that's a recurring theme. I've even heard it from Khmers who have gone to study abroad, or go to conferences abroad and then quickly realize that their skills and knowledge are subpar, much to their embarrassment. For those, it's usually a humbling experience which upon their return, makes them better rather than full of themselves.
I absolutely expect that, I think that's par for the course across the far east, with the possible exception of Japan, Korea, and sometimes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, where there are other issues, like "project manager syndrome".
Bitte_Kein_Lexus wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:21 pm 2-As mentioned above, you won't be able to retain anyone unless you increase their salary in accordance to their growing know edge and skills (so, yearly given that you'd be training them yourself). Otherwise, you'll have a huge retention problem, negating all the time and effort you'd be putting into training them in the first place. Those who are interested in programming and also quite often self-taught, so it might be worth looking at a broader spectrum than initially expected (they might also end up being more motivated).
I don't expect to find self-taught coders here (that's something more likely in developed countries), I expect to find people who've gone through a sloppily taught bachelors, and who at least have the capacity and motivation to learn. I would want to pay a flat rate plus bonuses, that's how I've been paid before.
I also sense that when people describe coders, they are always thinking of males, of a particular description, as you might see in movies :geek: :D
When I look at how I've programmed my Thai-Khmer neice, it's almost like a digital pygmalion. :ROFL:
Bitte_Kein_Lexus wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:21 pm Despite what you tend to hear from bitter old expats, I think there are a lot of knowledge-hungry fresh graduates around. They grew up in a vastly different setting from their parents (or even elder siblings!), so there's a lot more critical thinking and a more global work ethic than in the past. As with anything though, it falls down to the individual. Some people are open to constructive criticism, some aren't and so on. Some are hungry to learn, others are content to their own world and so on... I find younger Khmers are usually quite open to constructive advice and how things should be done vs cutting corners to finish quickly.
I'm thinking "get 'em whilst they're young" ...though I don't want that phrase to be misinterpreted :facepalm:
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

Post by Jerry Atrick »

My employer hires mainly fresh graduates, but is in a different field.

Most are hired on a training programme for 3-6 months and the lazy, incompetent, stupid and undesirable ones don't stay the course.

Those that do stay the course, and also pass the course, get salaried positions and a multi year contract.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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frank lee bent wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:34 pm My Khmer friend is constantly trying to hire full stack dev grads for his website development team and offers $600/pm to start with rapid promotion. He finds it difficult to recruit and retain them.
Recruiting and retaining seem like two different things. Some people recruit the wrong people and are only to happy to not retain them.

$600 is PP wages? What about SR and Banteay Meanchey? I don't see the benefit of offering "rapid promotion", I'd rather say, if you do your share and we make a successful product, your bonus will be bigger, but I want to tap into their self-pride of making someting that's just well-made, something that opens doors to cooler projects.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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Username Taken wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:43 pm Once you get them trained up, they'll be looking to branch out on their own with their new knowledge. Retention is difficult here with good workers.
Yeah, that's a concern, and why I've kept it in the family so far. It may just be that we have to structure the work they're given is non-core and non-critical.

I'm hoping that having an office in the UK will be a potential future draw, if I can get work permits for short visas for them. Obviously there needs to be work to do there.

Retention is usually helped by successful products, and cool software-related projects, that are hard to get the chance to do elsewhere, and that's maybe my secret weapon.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

Post by frank lee bent »

$600 is PP wages? What about SR and Banteay Meanchey?
All the action is in PP. I highly doubt you will find anyone elsewhere.
Cambodia has a labor shortage.
Cambodian firms already monopolize this field.
Philippines would be a better bet- their culture is working overseas, Khmers don't like expatriating.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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Thanks for your comments Frank.
frank lee bent wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 8:14 pm
$600 is PP wages? What about SR and Banteay Meanchey?
All the action is in PP. I highly doubt you will find anyone elsewhere.
Cambodia has a labor shortage.
Cambodian firms already monopolize this field.
Philippines would be a better bet- their culture is working overseas, Khmers don't like expatriating.
Well, I guess you mean that all the software graduates are in PP or want to work there?
The premiss is that I don't expect to find anyone who doesn't need training up. There appear to be technical universities outside PP, in SR, and a couple in Sisophon.

I'm not qualified to question what you say; what I've found so far from basic looking around is there are a few uni campuses that sound like they're worth investigating:
https://angkor.edu.kh/page/205, claims to do Computer Science, and Electronics
http://www.mekong.edu.kh/study/subject/, claims to do some programming modules related to business perhaps
http://cus.edu.kh/index.php?p=143, this one at SR and Sisophon claims to do CS and IT courses
https://pucsr.edu.kh/academic-programs/ this one claims to do CS at SR
http://www.usea.edu.kh/en/article.php?s ... cle-id=346, this one seems to offer a few relevant courses
https://bbu.edu.kh/campus/sr/site/view_article/67, this one also seems to offer CS and IT courses at SR
https://bbu.edu.kh/campus/bmc/site/view_article/67, and at Sisophon
http://rpitssr.edu.kh/, this one is a bit less international, and looks like a tech college doing HNDs/HNCs ("associates degrees"), but in relevant areas
http://www.npic.edu.kh/computer-science/, this one looks interesting too.

Where is the labour shortage in? Surely it's more of a skills shortage? I take your point on another thread about lowballing the locals and expecting a lot back from them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "this field". The software developer adverts that I've seen seem to be predominantly about web development, which is not my area of interest. From Sakaeo (which seems almost trilingual), there seem to be plenty of Cambodians working in Thailand between Poipet and Bangkok. I think there's a global not just a local shortage of the skills I'm looking to train up, fresh graduates in the UK for the languages I'm interested have salaries that are up to double many degrees.
Children can't learn it at schools in most countries, because teachers can't teach it, and coders can earn more from working than teaching; so you have to train your own.

I'm not really interested in the Philippines at the moment, I have no connection to there. I'd probably be more interested in Indonesia (and Malaysia), because of the scale of the economies and size of the languages, and because I have some connection there. I've seen people trying to develop apps for the "bahasa-sphere" market, to tap into the large numbers of people, and their smartphone addiction. Cambodia ticks some boxes and I'm exploring what's possible to facilitate being there as an alternative to Thailand. I'd rather be in Thailand near the Cambodian border, and be driving over and back, rather than flying further away where it's harder to monitor.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

Post by frank lee bent »

There is a missing age cohort in Cambodia that has flowed on from the genocide throughout society. Sectors suffering skill shortages such as garments and construction are highly affected.

http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-as ... -2924.html

https://english.cambodiadaily.com/news/ ... age-19742/

Most ICT related jobs are in PP- So when they graduate, they head there.

My comments in the other thread were in no way aimed at you.

You could float an ad out on khmer 24 and bong thom and get some data which would be more valid than opinions here.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

Post by SternAAlbifrons »

There are very few natural advantages here, for this.
Language skills, tech education standards, cultural and historical factors, unmet local demand for skills, poor business infrastructure, inefficiency costs... etc etc.

Of course you could force it - if you really wanted to locate here for other reasons.
But there are much better options if you are looking at from a business perspective.
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Re: Hiring young Cambodian graduates and training them - a feasibility study

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SternAAlbifrons wrote: Sun Sep 29, 2019 11:00 pm There are very few natural advantages here, for this.
Language skills, tech education standards, cultural and historical factors, unmet local demand for skills, poor business infrastructure, inefficiency costs... etc etc.

Of course you could force it - if you really wanted to locate here for other reasons.
But there are much better options if you are looking at from a business perspective.
Well, fair points.

Language skills, you could write a list of all the anglophone countries, and look at the cheaper ones, and you'd probably need to add a few additional filters.

Tech education standards. I certainly agree, but a small business is unlikely to get the best in the west, and the rest in the west aren't really anything special IMO - you can find equally able people in much cheaper places with lower expectations/sense-of-entitlement. You have to retrain them anyway. I went to a few unis of differing levels in the UK, and I feel like I know how inadequate the training is that undergraduates get. They have fancy sounding courses, but they are often detached from business needs.

Culture/History, I can see how this can be a problem, but I think if you get people young enough you can train them to be culturally different, and I base that on what I've seen of SEAsians being pulled out of the SEAsian norm and exposed to western standards and norms at a young age. If I wanted work ethic, I probably wouldn't look to the UK either. the USA, Japan, and Germany might be higher on my list; creativity/ingenuity, a bit more difficult everywhere, but maybe better in the UK and USA.

Unmet local demand for skills. This could be due to a number of factors, including those three above. So my solution is not look for skills, but potential expressed in other ways. I accept that there's a chance of trained staff being lured away, and that's a risk for companies in the west too. It seems to have a chilling effect on companies' willingness to train people up, and to post adverts that ask for the world on a stick for a pittance, and this is in the west. They want to put the ball in the court of universities and students themselves to get trained, but it doesn't work, because students and universities are not businesses and can't understand business's priorities until they've been exposed to that environment. So I think I have to develop a good reputation as a trainer of staff, and see it as a marketing tool of sorts, and expect to have to keep training staff.

Poor business infrastructure, I think this is true of the region in general. I mean Thailand is more modern, but staff sit around playing with their phones relentlessly. It's enough to make you go postal.

Inefficiency costs.. I guess you have to accept them as the cost of doing business, and offset against the lower wages and economic growth of the area.

Forcing it... well, yes the Cambodian visa regime is more appealing than many alternatives at the moment. It's a lot simpler to drive across the border than fly longhaul.

Business perspective. If it was purely business, then yes, I would look at a number of other places in other parts of the world. A driving factor is low costs. Thailand puts up barriers to entry that Cambodia doesn't. So using Cambodia to help with being in Thailand is part of it; but also, wanting to develop a business in the Asia-Pacific over a longer period is also part of it. To start with Cambodia is a cheaper option than, say, Malaysia, Korea, or Singapore. It's a punt, to see if it's possible to do something without throwing lots of money at it, and get it into viability sooner. The growth rates maybe distorted by Chinese input, but I don't know enough yet.

The skills shortage described above looks more like a tension over employer resistance to the market - wages need to rise to match Thai wages in some sectors, I guess.

There's apparently an "Ease of doing business" index, to go along with the global competitiveness index, and growth indices, I guess.
Very Easy New Zealand 1
Very Easy Singapore 2
Very Easy Denmark 3

Very Easy Hong Kong 4
Very Easy South Korea 5
Very Easy Georgia 6
Very Easy Norway 7
Very Easy United States 8
Very Easy United Kingdom 9

Very Easy North Macedonia 10
UK, Singapore, Norway, NZ, etc.. score quite well, but I find the UK oppressively expensive now.
Very Easy Malaysia 15
Very Easy Thailand 27
Very Easy Japan 39
Very Easy China 46
Easy Brunei 55
Easy Vietnam 69
Easy Indonesia 73
Easy Mongolia 74
Easy Bhutan 81
Medium Philippines 124
Medium Cambodia 138
Below Average Laos 154
Below Average Burma 172
Below Average Timor Leste 178
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ease_of_d ... ness_index

Thailand does seem to be in a sweet spot where it has the ingredients without the high costs, but I would like to set something up in a neighbouring country.
I have to be honest, Cambodia is a bit more interesting than some of the other countries in the region. I suppose I'm hoping for cheaper labour costs, and some motivation from someone that's a bit more than what I see in Thailand. I may be pissing in the wind, but I guess I'm optimistic about young people and their drive.
Last edited by CaptainNemo on Mon Sep 30, 2019 12:44 am, edited 3 times in total.
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