Many people's working lives have been altered as a result of the global pandemic, including those in Cambodia. As a responsible corporate citizen, Chairman Neak Oknha Chen Zhi and Prince Group founded the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center, Cambodia's first independent watch school. The training centre provides Cambodians with the opportunity to learn a new artisanal skill – watchmaking – and acquire the experience needed to compete in work markets in Cambodia and abroad. The training centre adheres to the stringent watchmaking regulations outlined by Swiss regulatory bodies.
Cambodia, as a nation steeped in history, has long maintained artisanal skills for centuries, with the Kingdom well-known for its ancient handwoven silk and traditional handicraft industries boasting a heritage dating back to the Khmer Empire, a significance that Chen Zhi Prince Group have always recognised and appreciated.
However, new artisanal skills must be implemented to boost job opportunities for Cambodians, particularly since the textile and garment industry, like other sectors, has suffered greatly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with media reports suggesting that more than 55,000 workers have been left without pay.
Many Cambodians have returned to agriculture and established small businesses in an attempt to rebalance their lives. To that end, Chen Zhi and Prince Group have established the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center in Phenom Penh, Cambodia, to assist in the introduction of opportunities to learn new skills.
The cutting-edge centre offers a full-time, two-year programme based on the certificate fédéral de capacité (CFC), Swiss government-defined vocational training requirements that are widely regarded as the industry standard for basic watchmaking education.
The centre, which is part of Chen Zhi and Prince Group's climate, social, and governance (ESG) efforts in Cambodia, also provides scholarships to local students and others in need of financial assistance, ranging from a 50 percent subsidy of school fees to a fully funded scholarship that includes housing. The first group of students has begun their journey into the world of watchmaking.
Maarten Pieters, a former director of Switzerland's leading watchmaking academy, the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program, has joined Prince Group (WOSTEP).
Furthermore, 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 the history and culture of watchmaking, as well as benchwork, such as machining, micro-mechanics, and the manufacturing of components such as the winding stem and balance staff, among other things. The centre also emphasises traditional artisanal skills such as decorating and turning.
“I am delighted to announce the opening of Cambodia's first independent watch academy, the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center. “All of the center's new machinery and equipment were imported from Switzerland, Germany, and other countries,” said Prince Group Chairman Neak Oknha Chen Zhi. “We have also assembled a world-class team to teach Cambodian and foreign students new skills that will make them successful in Cambodian and international work markets.”
Last year, Prince Group met its ESG obligations in other areas. It made numerous large-scale donations to aid in the war against the pandemic, as well as provided assistance to flood victims in Cambodia. To date, the Prince Charitable Foundation Organization has coordinated over 240 charitable activities and donated funds and other materials totaling more than US$11 million to support over 320,000 people. Chen Zhi and Prince Group have donated US$3,000,000 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 now accepting applications for the upcoming school year, which begins on June 2, 2021. Per year, the centre accepts eight students, at least five of whom must be Cambodians.