People In Need (PIN) has collaborated with the Industrial Technical Institute (ITI) on the “Towards Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities” project to offer the first full scholarships to people with disabilities in Phnom Penh to acquire technical skills that meet the needs of the employment market.

Trainees with disabilities can choose to study electricity and air conditioning, computer repair and maintenance, and vehicle repair and maintenance. PIN, which supports the project, has not set a target number of scholarships, but will offer them to everyone who meets the programme requirements.

“Each four-month course is supported by PIN. The tuition fee per student is $450. PIN will also provide a travel allowance and meals to each student,” said Say Sokhiang, ITI deputy director.

Legarta Johanna, PIN communications manager, said PIN is a non-profit organization from the Czech Republic. It was founded on ideals of humanity, freedom and equality.

“Our vision is to contribute to building a world where people can make free decisions about their lives. A world where people are not restricted by society, poverty, lack of education or discrimination,” she added.

The disability programme began in November 2021 and will run until December next year.

PIN has a collaborative partner, the Agile Development Group, a social enterprise for the creation of independent economic and lifestyle opportunities for people with disabilities. It is financially supported by the Czech government through the Czech Republic Development Agency.

“This project aims to promote inclusive employment by improving access to decent work for people with disabilities (PwDs). Providing vocational training can help them develop valuable skills that meet the needs of employers, empower them to start their own enterprises, and promote the integration of inclusive practices in the workplace,” she said.

She added that they represent one of the most disadvantaged groups in the job market. They are more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive than people without disabilities. Only 44 per cent of children with disabilities have completed primary school, compared to 73 per cent of children without disabilities. Only 31 per cent of young people in Cambodia have a job that matches their qualifications.

Citing interviews with students with who are studying this first short course, Sokhiang said that there are many reasons that young disabled people have not received vocational training in the past.

“Firstly, it is because they did not receive comprehensive information from schools that provide skills training. Secondly, a lack of facilities designed for people with disabilities prevented them from studying. Thirdly, there were no scholarship providers. Students with disabilities and their families are often unable to afford access to vocational training,” he added.

He said this is an excellent opportunity for people with disabilities to acquire vocational training at an institute that has the appropriate infrastructure and facilities for them.

To qualify for the scholarships, applicants must be young men and women with disabilities who are 17 years old or older, can study in Phnom Penh and are willing to study inclusive vocational skills. Apart from the benefits of the training, there is also additional support for travel expenses and the opportunity to continue studying entrepreneurship.

“We will carefully organise the next course and mix students with disabilities and students without disabilities in line with inclusive employment and study. This also makes it easier for students to learn. At this point only 2 of the 10 students who are enrolled are disabled,” he added.

At the November 1 graduation ceremony of the Royal University of Law and Economics, several students with disabilities have completed their Bachelor’s degree. The event was presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen who called on public and private institutions to provide opportunities and accept new civil servants or employees with disabilities.

“Despite restrictions on recruitment, the government continues to call on public and private institutions to employ people with disabilities. We have set a goal of 2 per cent for public institutions and 1 per cent for private institutions [to provide job opportunities to people with disabilities],” he said.