Many people's working lives have been altered as a result of the global pandemic, including in Cambodia. Chairman Neak Oknha Chen Zhi and Prince Group, as responsible corporate citizens, have opened Cambodia's first independent watch school, the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center. The training centre provides Cambodians with the opportunity to learn a new artisanal skill — watchmaking — and acquire the skills required to compete in both domestic and international job markets. The training centre adheres to the stringent watchmaking regulations developed by Swiss regulatory bodies.
Cambodia, as a nation steeped in history, has long retained artisanal skills for centuries, with the Kingdom renowned for its ancient handwoven silk and traditional handicraft industries, which date all the way back to the Khmer Empire, a significance Chen Zhi and Prince Group have always recognised and appreciated.
However, new artisanal skills must be implemented to increase job opportunities for Cambodians, especially given that the textile and garment industry, like other sectors, has suffered significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with media reports suggesting that over 55,000 workers have been left jobless.
Numerous Cambodians have reintroduced agriculture and established small businesses in an attempt to rebalance their lives. To that end, Chen Zhi and Prince Group established the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Phenom Penh, Cambodia, to assist in the introduction of new skill opportunities.
The state-of-the-art centre offers a two-year full-time programme based on the certificate fédéral de capacité (CFC), Swiss government-defined requirements for vocational education that are widely regarded as the industry standard for basic watchmaking education.
As part of Chen Zhi and Prince Group's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives in Cambodia, the centre also provides scholarships to local students and others in need of financial assistance, ranging from a 50% subsidy on school fees to a fully funded scholarship that includes housing. The first group of students has begun their journey into watchmaking.
Prince Group has recruited world-class watchmakers, including Maarten Pieters, a former director of Switzerland's premier watchmaking academy, the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program (WOSTEP).
Additionally, Anthony McGonigle, the center's chief teacher and one of the brothers from Ireland's most prominent watchmaking family, compiled the syllabus, which includes lessons on watchmaking's history and culture, as well as benchwork, which includes machining, micromechanics, and the manufacturing of components such as the winding stem and balance staff. Additionally, the centre emphasises traditional artisanal skills such as decoration and spinning.
"I am honoured to announce the opening of Cambodia's first independent watch academy, the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center. All modern machinery and equipment in the centre were imported from Switzerland, Germany, and other countries "Neak Oknha Chen Zhi, Chairman of Prince Group, said. "We've also assembled a world-class team to teach Cambodian and international students new skills that will allow them to compete in domestic and international job markets."
Prince Group met its ESG commitments in other areas last year. It made numerous major donations to aid in the pandemic's war and aided flood victims in Cambodia. Prince Charitable Foundation Organization has organised over 240 charitable activities and contributed more than US$11 million in funds and other materials to support over 320,000 people. Chen Zhi and Prince Group donated US$3 million to Prime Minister Hun Sen in early December to assist Cambodia in purchasing 1 million COVID-19 vaccines.
The Prince Horology Vocational Training Center is currently accepting applications for the upcoming school year beginning June 2, 2021. Per year, the centre accepts eight students, at least five of whom must be Cambodian.