On June 13, National Cheng Kung University signed a memorandum of understanding with E.SUN Commercial Bank and Paragon International University (PIU) to jointly establish the ASEAN Talent Cultivation Program: a diverse, mutually beneficial talent cultivation platform. The program aims for comprehensive planning of cultivation methods such as welcoming Cambodian students to Taiwan for academic studies and career development, helping Taiwanese businesses satisfy their talent demands and aiding companies in development and strategy. External officials hope that the energy of Taiwan’s higher education can assist them in pursuing excellence. In the future the platform may be expanded to other regions or countries, turning Taiwan into a key location for the cultivation of international talent.
NCKU President Dr. Jenny Huey-Jen Su, E.SUN Commercial Bank CEO Joseph Huang, and PIU Director Deth Sok Udom signed the memorandum and announced the official commencement of the initiative. The ASEAN Talent Cultivation Program will combine the existing resources of NCKU, PIU and E.SUN Commercial Bank to produce a synergystic effect. PIU will first aid a select group of high-achieving Cambodian students in relocating to Taiwan to pursue their master’s degree. NCKU will then take responsibility for talent and skill cultivation, whereas E.SUN Commercial Bank will assist in career development. What is most unique about this program is that it considers the student perspective: it helps foreign students both prior to their arrival in Taiwan and throughout their post-graduation job search, periods respectively referred to as “first and last miles”.
In her speech, NCKU President Dr. Jenny Huey-Jen Su mentioned that NCKU has had many students from ASEAN countries but almost no students from Cambodia. Citing Taiwan’s abundance in educational resources and NCKU’s experience in cultivating international students, she expressed confidence that NCKU can offer Cambodian students the best possible learning environment. NCKU officials hope to deliver by not merely cultivating talent suitable for Cambodia, but also cultivating internationally capable world citizens.
E.SUN Commercial Bank CEO Joseph Huang indicated that developing a complete talent supply chain is currently the most fundamental part of E.SUN Commercial Bank’s Asian strategy, providing local talent with the best career development available. Located in Phnom Penh City, Cambodia, PIU hosts students and teachers from several different countries as well as modern campus buildings. It is a university with many distinguishing features and significant international competitiveness. In the future, PIU students will be offered internship opportunities at E.SUN Commercial Bank’s subsidiary, Union Commercial Bank PLC (UCB). It is the first Taiwanese-funded bank to cultivate local financial talent.
PIU Director Deth Sok Udom expressed strong belief that connections between academia and industry should serve to cultivate talent not only for corporations or industries, but also for the improvement of human society. He labeled the notion as one of the social responsibilities of universities and praised NCKU as a symbol of excellence in this regard. Udom guaranteed that Cambodian students graduating from NCKU would receive cultural nurturing, professional knowledge and skill training to assure that they will do justice to themselves and promote their nation’s progress.
NCKU’s Director of International Student Affairs Division, Associate Professor Yueh-Heng Li, pointed out that the “last mile” has historically been the most difficult in any matter. Even with scholarships, students with financial difficulties in the targeted countries of the New Southbound Policy are often forced to give up their dreams due to the initial financial expenses of traveling abroad (such as plane tickets and visas) combined with the immediate settling-in expenses upon arrival.
In this respect, the ASEAN Talent Cultivation Program would be able to help. UCB will first allocate scholarship funds to Cambodian students before they come to Taiwan to alleviate the financial pressure of going abroad and help with initial living expenses. Once they are settled in Taiwan, E.SUN Commercial Bank will then offer them internship opportunities during winter and summer vacation. After they graduate and (presumably) return to Cambodia they would have a guaranteed position reserved for them at UCB, eliminating the need to shop their resumes around and look for employment. They will receive consistent care from admission to graduation.
Professor Li stressed that although the ASEAN Talent Cultivation Program is a collaboration between NCKU and E.SUN Commercial Bank, other Taiwanese or foreign companies are also welcome to join them in offering additional scholarships and internship/employment opportunities, thereby cultivating needed talent and promoting local development. Officials remain hopeful that this platform operation model could soon be extended to include other targeted countries in the New Southbound Policy or even Eastern European countries to maximize the effects of higher education’s soft power in Taiwan.
NCKU will offer scholarships and exemption for tuition, credit fees, and accommodation fees to outstanding students recommended by PIU, as well as a free Chinese course, for one year. E.SUN Commercial Bank will offer an ASEAN scholarship (NTD$100,000 distributed over two semesters) and internship opportunities during winter and summer vacation (in Taipei or Phnom Penh). UCB will provide Cambodian students with a USD$1000 scholarship to spend as they see fit after arriving in Taiwan.