Artisans d’Angkor is a Cambodian semi-public company that was originally created as an association in 1992 to help young people with limited education find jobs in their home village and thus increase their families’ income and slow down rural depopulation. It provides them with a 9 to 12 months high-skilled training and a career from which they can make a living. This mission continues today. In 2012, Artisans d’Angkor trained over 100 young craftsmen. The company currently employs 1100 people, including over 700 craftsmen. 48 workshops operate in Siem Reap province. Artisans d’Angkor promotes traditional Cambodian Fine Arts and Crafts: stone and wood carving, polychromy-lacquering-gilding, silk weaving, silver plating, ceramic and jewelry making.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Cambodia was facing the challenge of rebuilding its economy. In order to enable economic integration of young rural people who had a lack of opportunities, the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ligue Française de la Formation Continue et de l'Enseignement (French League for In-service Training and Education) decided to design a development program tailored to the country’s culture and tradition. The approach was simple: helping young rural people by giving them a job that would enable them to earn a living with dignity. With the growing number of tourists coming to Angkor, craftsmanship revitalization was rapidly viewed as a potential niche training which would meet trainees’ needs and aspirations. In 1992, the Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnelle (CEFP) were created to provide young Cambodians with professional skills that could meet the market needs and would thus allow them to find an interesting occupation.
Between 1998 and 2001, a program implemented by the European Union, called “REPLIC”, supported the development and sustainability of the CEFP. It created a workplace which would provide jobs for the young craftsmen that had been trained at the Chantiers-Ecoles. This is when Artisans d’Angkor was founded. Since then, Artisans d’Angkor has committed itself to the preservation of traditional skills that are rooted in the Khmer culture.
Currently, in accordance with needs, Artisans d’Angkor trains its new apprentices for craft work. The National Silk Center (a unit of CEFP) provides training for the silk sector. In both cases, the apprentices receive a living allowance during their free of charge vocational training period. After completion of this training, the young apprentices are granted the status of craftsmen and are given the opportunity to be hired by Artisans d’Angkor if they wish.
Learning new skills, experiencing field practice, understanding the raw materials and being proud of good quality work are at the heart of the training method. Developing self-awareness and promoting personal development also takes an important part of the process.
Artisans d’Angkor has become a powerful tool for the economic integration of newly trained apprentices. The company is now the largest employer of the region and is proud to have kept Education and Training at the core of its mission.
Futhermore, Artisans d’Angkor has pioneered a new social policy in Cambodia with a decent salary level along with social and medical benefits, and 4% of its craftsmen are people with disabilities. The craftsmen have formed an association which holds a 20-percent share in the company. The turnover of the company is reinvested for social purposes, such as the setting up of new trainings and the opening of new workshops in rural villages in Siem Reap province. A workshop opening means more employment in disadvantaged rural communities and therefore an improvement of social conditions and poverty alleviation.
Artisans d’Angkor strives to promote fair trade in Cambodia. Artisans Angkor is self-funded. It has shareholders who do not take any dividends from the profits made by the company as they are all reinvested in the company’s development. The shareholders are the artisans themselves through the association they have formed and own, the Cambodian government through the Apsara Authority (Cambodian institution in charge of the Preservation of the Angkor site and Siem Reap province) and two private partners.
Health services are available for all employees, they can also consult the permanent doctor working for Artisans Angkor if they require it. Moreover thanks to a partnership with a French medical association, named A.I.R. Khmer, Artisans d’Angkor offers a free medical check-up of the artisans’ health. These general practitioners work alongside a medical team including a dentist, gynecologist, dermatologist, physiotherapist and ophthalmologist. They all complete the employees’ health check on a voluntary basis.
They also make health and hygiene recommendations that are used by human resources department in their regular artisans meetings. These meetings are held every 6 months to raise awareness about the benefits of adopting the right postures and gestures at work. This long-term campaign is intended to give helpful advice for artisans who work on heavy pieces for example.