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Passerelles Numériques (Digital Bridges): a school to help disadvantaged young Cambodians succeed

- Phnom Penh
Access to employment

Created in November 2006, Passerelles Numériques helps young Cambodians from the country’s poorest classes to receive advanced training in information technology.



“Our objective is to provide training that leads to employment,” explains Virginie Legrand, founder of the organisation. In the bargain, there's the opportunity for these young people to work in the growth sector of IT and contribute to their country’s development.

Training for a real career

This beautiful story starts in France in 2004, when Virginie Legrand, then a 34-year-old marketing director at American Express, decided to take a year-long sabbatical in Cambodia with Enfants du Mékong, a non-profit organisation: “I learned that young high school graduates were returning to the rice fields or the trash dumps due to lack of work. This is how the idea of a school to train high school graduates for computing careers in Phnom Penh was born.” With the help of two engineers from the École Polytechnique and Télécom Paris, Alain Goyé and Hakara Tea, Passerelles Numériques was started. The centre now provides certified training averaging two years for 250 young people each year.

The training centre organises informational meetings beginning in the senior year and its decision process lasts six months. “Eighty percent of our students come from the countryside. After passing an exam, candidates are interviewed to determine their level of motivation. Lastly, we examine the family’s living conditions. We accept only the poorest,” stresses Alain Goyé. “We train them to be system and network administrators and web programmers. We also try to instil values such as confidence, solidarity and responsibility, as well as self-management skills.”

An original partnership

In 2010, the organisation contacted one of the country’s largest employers, Société Concessionnaire des Aéroports (SCA), manager of Cambodia’s airports and a subsidiary of VINCI Concessions. Nicolas Deviller, SCA’s general director in Phnom Penh, was immediately attracted to the project and became its sponsor. VINCI Foundation provided support for the purchase of equipment and SCA approved a partnership for training content. “We talk with trainers and let them know what skills are in demand. We can then recruit young people that have been trained for what we need and become part of the country's business community,” explains Nicolas Deviller.

The story of Pech Pratna, 22, a second-year student, is typical. “I grew up in an orphanage. My parents died when I was a baby. My father was a soldier and my mother sold fish. My high school principal was the one who told me about Passerelles Numériques. It was a real opportunity for me since I had no financial resources. I’m training for a career.” Pech is currently doing sandwich training at Phnom Penh airport, where he hopes to be hired.

“Thanks to SCA, Passerelles Numériques is becoming a professional training centre,” explains Virginie Legrand. For his part, Nicolas Deviller stresses the value of the sponsorship, “Hiring skilled young people is a precious opportunity.” It’s also a fundamental step for the project to be run by the Cambodians themselves in the future.

December 2011 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.