Created in 2002 by the French NGO Agir Pour Le Cambodge, Sala Baï is a free hotel school based in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Each year, the school trains 150 young disadvantaged Cambodians in the five main professions of the hospitality industry: Restaurant Service, Cook, Front Office, Housekeeping and beauty therapy.
The training lasts 12 months and the school covers all training costs (lessons, school supplies, books, uniforms), and daily expenses (accommodations, food, bicycle, insurance and medical expenses) for the students. Thanks to the revenues of the on-site training hotel, restaurant and beauty salon – which are open to the public – Sala Bai covers approximately 35% of its operating expenses and relies on donations to cover the rest.
Since its inception, Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School has trained, graduated and found employment for a total of 1500 students. The Sala Bai model is effective because it offers the most at-risk and impoverished youth of Cambodia economic self-reliance and a future!
The training program lasts 11 months and offers 5 different disciplines: Restaurant service, Cooking, Front Office, Housekeeping amd Beauty Therapy.
The program includes theory (technical skills, English language, general education and soft skills) and practical experience at school or during internship at partner hotels. The training is completely free of charge. The school covers training costs ( lessons, school supplies, books, uniforms), and daily expenses ( accommodation, food, bicycles, insurance and medical expenses) for all students . The 12th month is dedicate to job searching. Social workers help students to find their first job: 100% of them find a job within this month. That’s what makes the Sal Bai model unique – it works!
Sala Bai students are recruited from the most underprivileged rural districts and select cities throughout Cambodia. Most of the students had to drop-out of school for several years to support their families. The average age is 20; approximately 35% are orphans and have an average of 5 siblings per family. For broader economic benefit, only one person per family is selected.
Priority Given to Girls (70%/30%)
In Cambodia, like in many other countries, girls are more vulnerable. Although the female population is 52%, only 33% of girls versus 67% of boys go to school. According to the UN Report on Poverty, in 2013 only 20% of males and 12% of females attend secondary school. The female population has less opportunity of finding stable employment or one with decent pay. Moreover, very few vocational training opportunities are offered to young women, even fewer when they have a low education level.
Recruitment and Selection Criteria
The students recruitment, run by Sala Bai social workers is a 4-step process: application and registration, written exams to evaluate candidates’ ability to read and write in Khmer, family visits to check the social and economic family background and personal interviews with trainers to ensure the candidates’ motivation. To join Sala Bai, canidatates must meet the following criteria:
- come from disadvantaged families (less than $25/month per family)
- be between 17 and 23 years old
- have a minimum educational level of level 6 (level 10 for Front Office)
- be highly motivated.
Priority is given to girls (70%) who are more vulnerable and have less access to education and stable employment.
The 27-strong Sala Bai team is made up entirely of Cambodians.
14 teachers and trainers:
- 9 technical trainers
- 4 English teachers
- 1 French and Mathematics teacher who also works as a Social Worker
5 social workers: responsible for the selection of students, schooling follow-up, helping the students find internship and permanent jobs. They are also in charge of the general education curriculum. They train and monitor students who are seeking employment (help them write their CVs, mock interviews) and inform them on employment and pay conditions.
8 support functions: one accounting manager, one administrative assistant, one sales and communication assistant, 2 housemaids, 1 cook for the canteen and 2 guards. Seven of them are former Sala Bai studen, who, after several years of experience in hotels, wanted to come back to the school to pass on what they learnt during they career.
This local team can count on the management support of 2 French volunteers. These volunteers, who are on a two-year contract, give technical and management assistance to the local team.