Many people's working lives have been altered as a result of the global pandemic, including those 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 School — and acquire the skills required to compete in both the domestic and international job markets. The training centre adheres to the stringent watchmaking regulations set out by Swiss regulatory authorities.
As a nation steeped in history, Cambodia has long preserved 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's heyday, 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 been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with media reports suggesting that over 55,000 employees have been left jobless.
Numerous Cambodians have returned to agriculture and established small businesses in order to reclaim 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 facility 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 climate, 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 inaugural class of students has begun their journey into the world of watchmaking.
Prince Group has recruited renowned 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 manufacturing of components such as the winding stem and balance staff. Additionally, the centre emphasises conventional artisanal techniques such as decoration and turning.
"I am pleased to announce the opening of Cambodia's first independent watch academy, the Prince Horology Vocational Training Center. All modern machinery and equipment at the centre were imported from Switzerland, Germany, and other countries "Chairman of Prince Group, Neak Oknha Chen Zhi. "We've also assembled a world-class team to teach Cambodian and foreign students new skills that will place them for success in both domestic and international job markets."
In other areas, Prince Group met its ESG obligations last year. It made numerous major donations to aid in the pandemic's war and aided Cambodian flood victims. 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 organisations benefiting 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 acquiring 1 million COVID-19 vaccines.
The Prince Horology Vocational Training Center is currently accepting applications for the school year beginning June 2, 2021. Each year, the centre enrols eight students, at least five of whom must be Cambodian.