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British Council aids MENA youth vocational project


Marc Jessel, Country Director, British Council UAE and Sabrin Rahman, Head of Corporate Sustainability, MENA at HSBC
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Marc Jessel, Country Director, British Council UAE and Sabrin Rahman, Head of Corporate Sustainability, MENA at HSBC

The British Council and HSBC will aid a youth ‘skills for learning, life and work’ programme aimed at 15-16-year-olds in eight countries of the Middle East and North Africa region.

Addressing youth employability in MENA is a pressing challenge, an announcement [6 March 2016] on the launch of the programme said. That challenge, it said, requires government, education institutions and business to come together to provide young people with the skills they need to get the jobs they aspire to.

A PWC survey of business leaders from the MENA region found that 63% were concerned about a lack of core communication and confidence skills in young people. This was seen as a barrier to productivity and commercial success and to securing employment.

With more than half of the region’s population under 25 years old and 2.8 million young people year each year entering the labour market, according to OECD data, governments and business are seeking candidates that possess core skills that are needed for the global economy.

Youth discontent over scant opportunities even in the wealthiest of MENA c0untries has been talked about for years. But constructive response to the issue has been patchy. It’s only recently, with the rise in youth-related crime including terrorism and radicalisation in MENA and European migration hotspots, that decision-makers have begun to do something about it. Initiatives continue to fall short of the requirements, however, according to independent research conducted by The Middle East in Europe.

The new schools programme initiative is called Taqaddam (Arabic: Moving Forward) and was launched jointly by the British Council and HSBC in eight countries — Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In the first pilot year, the programme will reach 1,620 15-16 year olds in those eight countries.

Research has found that the demand in the working world is shifting — to use the jargon — from an emphasis on left-brain skills, such as subject matter knowledge and technical know-how, to right brain skills such as adaptability and imagination. The research also shows that ‘many’ MENA graduates appear to be lacking in this area. Taqaddam’s approach and course content aims to impart students with skills, confidence and lifelong learning to reflect the changing global needs and help with contemporary living.

Sabrin Rahman, HSBC’s head of corporate sustainability for MENA, said Taqaddam will work in 90 schools in the selected region. The focus of the course is to equip the young men and women “with ‘soft skills’ such as confidence, assertiveness, decision-making, and the ability to stay safe and healthy,” said Rahman.

Taught over seven weeks, the course includes face-to-face workshops for teachers, helping to develop their capacity as educators in the area of core skills, followed by an online assessment for students and subsequent development courses delivered by trained teachers.

Gail Campbell, British Council education director for the Middle East and North Africa,  said the bank and the British Council aim to deliver “a sustainable programme that will adequately equip the next generation with the skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work.”

The course content aims to instil character-building, team work, organisation and communication skills, critical thinking and taking the initiative.

Further Reading

PWC 2014: The Talent Challenge: Adapting for Growth Report PWC. P10

McNeil, B Reeder, N Rich, J 2012:  A Framework of Outcomes for Young People. The Young Foundation, 2012

Author: Editor

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