01 Dec Exposure, a cure for the skills gap
Online resources are not enough to reduce the skills gap, exposure is.
TLDR; Why our Academy focuses on the lack of exposure rather than only on the technical skills. (yes, we are aware of EdX, TED and the likes)
Granted, seeing the inequalities in this country is enough for anyone to be motivated to make a difference. But when I was working on the idea of a coworking space by the beach in Cambodia, I would have never expected that this journey would bring me today, as starting an Academy in this temple town, Siem Reap, which is to be one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia.
After a year of coworking services, in 2015, we added coliving services aiming at serving digital nomads with all-inclusive packages in a seasonal destination. A way to pursue the dream of bridging the skills gap by bringing passionate travellers for medium to long term stays.
Sitting in the middle of a gap
Imagine yourself, being constantly surrounded by astounding talents, travelling the world with only a laptop and their skills. Eager to share, create and empower. Every day, around a delicious meal at the hub. Sitting at almost the epicentre of a nation-wide problem.
You would think that it would be easier to just offer free day passes in a town where most post-graduates are hanging in cafés playing PUBG, they would jump on the opportunity! Yet, none.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy is booming and companies cannot find enough talents.
I can’t stand there and do nothing, knowledge must be shared.
Although I never went to University myself, my journey with technologies and online opportunities started in 1997. More, seeing a constant flow of amazingly talented people at the hub, keen to share (if only their visa was long enough and enabling remote work, more on this in another post).
But why we couldn’t just teach if only skills are the problem?
You don’t know what you don’t know: The lack of exposure
The skills gap, it’s nice on paper but is it really tangible? Teaching someone digital skills is important, but what if this is without matching soft-skills, marketing, business and communication skills?
In the Cambodian context, with a need-to-catch-up educational system, there are only so many things universities can teach and there’s a sweet spot.
One of the key things I observed is often the lack of exposure. Often unaware of platforms such as edX, Upwork, Fivver, Coursera and lot more, unaware of atypical job styles and the gig economy, how one could know if never exposed? If some of these young adults, fresh-graduate and even single-parents would only know!
The exposure, that’s it? Almost!
The low hanging fruit
Take for example a Business Administration student, they know how to use text processors and spreadsheets, data entry, writing texts and have an understanding of business principles. Quite similar to administrative assistants right?
Turned-out, some of them already have a great level of English, a smartphone, a laptop and some time dedicated to new opportunities. What if they could simply learn the missing skills and becoming virtual assistants? But for this, you need to know it exists, exposure!.
I have no means of being an expert in education, but I figured that if we could show atypical paths, stories & inspiration, we could do something.
A strong foundation on learning how to be an ultra-learner seeking self-development mixed with the matching digital skills to clear paths such as Facebook Advertising or how to be a virtual assistant, that could do potentially empower a few! How life-changing to be able to make extra money from home while growing professional skills and a client base?
Why even a vast amount of free online resources will not reduce the skills gap. Yes, we do know about Khan Academy, EdX, TED, and other awesome projects!
Most of the young adults in Cambodia are under-exposed to such brilliant resources and tend to follow beaten paths. As well, the typical learning process is not really personal, but rather a “group thing crossing formalities to have one day a scan of a diploma”. For example, most of the students defending their thesis have to be in groups!
Our curriculum forbids re-inventing the wheel, but instead, enforces creating actionable pathways, inspire, expose and re-use existing content.
The Academy in brief
8 weeks, 24 sessions, a lot of homework, groups to assist peer-to-peer motivation. Our sessions blueprints consist of pathways, gamification and learning by example in favour of boring lectures. At the end of the sessions, the students would be offered to use portage services where they could use a ready-made company name, mentors, invoicing and payment opportunities for an “incubation fee” that they can hop on or off every month as they please or until they feel ready.
How much does it cost? That was very hard to decide, first, we are not an NGO, second, young adults want to feel proud, empowered and real investment in their future. We had focus groups and interviews with a few NGOs providing education opportunities in training or scholarship, to come at the conclusion that we should start at $50 for the complete 2 months course. Upon proper funding, we are also considering different models such as a deposit, returned upon completion to avoid dropouts or scholarships.
An amazing response to our first class: Becoming a Virtual Assistant
We working with an international group of virtual assistants ready to collaborate, endorse and grow this project. This support is paramount in our course validation, group support and growing all together. Thank you, Indira, Hanna and Jo.
Scholarships & Sponsoring
Like this idea? Want to support students? Get in touch
Do you need a virtual assistant?
Are you a Khmer business owner, a digital nomad or a startup seeking sharp candidates to ease your tasks? We have already a VA matching service!
Collaboration and ideas are welcome.