Training Sihanoukville youngsters for the growing hospitality job market

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The bustling hospitality industry in Sihanoukville is in dire need of skilled workers.

Demand for well-qualified workers with knowledge of Mandarin, to serve the increasing Chinese tourists and business community, in the booming hospitality industry in Sihanuokville is certainly on the rise.

Noting a shortage of skilled workers, a farsighted Australian-Chinese entrepreneur has ventured into providing training for high school graduates and local youths, to meet the labour scarcity in the province, especially for front-line staff in the hospitality sector.

George Chow, whose previous work experience with two major Chinese-owned companies gives him an insight on the hospitality job market demands in Sihanoukville is running his own language training centre now.

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Chow says many Chinese companies need Mandarin speaking staff.

Seeing the demand for Mandarin speakers, George has been providing beginner and intermediate Chinese classes to students and local youths, by collaborating with two high schools in the province to prepare them for employment.

Local students from Life University who are Chinese majors are hired to teach beginners while Chinese teachers are roped in to conduct classes for intermediates.

The language centre is mainly to target high school students, graduates and unschooled local youths to teach them conversational Mandarin and give them basic vocational training on servicing customers in the hospitality industry.

Then, students who perform well are given the chance to work in hotels, casinos or restaurants as interns to gain real work experience to further improve their servicing skills.

“Training the graduates and locals who have not attended school before is quite challenging because most of them lack learning skills, so they take a longer time to pick up the skills and techniques required in the service industry,” he told The Post in an interview.

“At the very least, I need to train them so that they meet the level of a junior interpreter to be able to meet the relevant job requirements,” he said.

“One of the schools I am collaborating with have students mainly from the blue-collar families. I like to do this (provide vocational training) because it will benefit the local community in the long term.

“In Sihanoukville, locals who speak Mandarin earn a higher salary compared to non-Mandarin speaking locals,” he explained.

He said that Chinese-owned companies are in dire need of front-line staff, where one hotel could be looking for hundreds of new employees.

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Sihanoukville is booming with hotels and casinos.

“That is why I am trying to get more high school students or graduates to enrol in Mandarin classes at my language centre.

“As an example, if I have 500 students in my centre, I can immediately supply the workforce required by a hotel within 30 minutes.

“I am also in the process of setting up a HR [human resources] agency to cater the needs of hotels and restaurants in Sihanoukville,” he said.

George’s agency will be the first in Sihanoukville that specifically focuses in providing skilled workforce in the province.

He stated that a few years ago, when there was a hospitality industry boom in Sihanoukville, the labour market was not ready to supply the required workforce to hotels.

As Sihanoukville has a large Chinese business community and it is a popular destination among Chinese tourists, employees in the hospitality industry will be able to provide better service to customers if they could speak Mandarin. ​

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Workers with knowledge of Mandarin will have an added advantage to serve Chinese tourists.