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Employed youth inspire the unemployed in the Mena region

angel@khaleejtimes.com Filed on December 8, 2017
Employed youth inspire the unemployed in the Mena region
Job expectations of the youth are likewise addressed and they are taught that a job is more than just a paycheque.

(KT File)

Using video, photo and narrative storytelling, the campaign gives a platform for employers, youth and influencers to share the story of their first job and the role it played in helping them to reach their dreams.

A campaign that uses narrative storytelling and social media to enable individuals to share the story of how they secured their first job has recently been rolled out in the UAE.

Launched by the Education For Employment (EFE), an organisation linking unemployed youth in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, #FirstJob campaign is aimed at helping youth understand that their first job may not be their 'dream job,' but it's an important step in getting there. #FirstJob uses the power of storytelling to help more Mena youth enter the world of work - a way to tackle youth unemployment.

According to EFE, since 2010, "youth unemployment rates in the Arab region have become the highest of any region in the world at over 27 per cent, with the percentage continuing to rise. A research by the Union of Arab Banks revealed that unemployed workers in the Middle East have risen to 120 million and EFE said 67 million of them are in the youth bracket. Compounding the problem is the fact that 72 per cent of CEOs in the Arab region say the lack of available talent is the second biggest business risk they take yet millions of youth are looking for their first job.

"Most companies are hesitant to hire young workers - even when they have the relevant skills - and many youth are unwilling to pursue other employment options, or do not know how," Jasmine Nahhas di Florio, senior vice president for strategy and partnerships at EFE, told Khaleej Times.

"Contrary to the belief that as long as you get education - like in engineering, journalism, medicine, and so on - you can get easily land your first job after graduation; sadly the education system in the region does not necessarily lead to employment," di Florio added.

She explained that this is because of the mismatch in the job market. "Young people don't have the right skills to get their first jobs and they also miss on soft skills like social connection," she added. 

"We (EFE) exist in order to help unemployed young people in the Arab world get access to employment. After working for more than 10 years connecting unemployed Arab youth to work, we realised that the best way to help them get their first job is to get inspiration from young people you have been in the same situation before like them," she underlined.

So, how does it work? 

Using video, photo and narrative storytelling, the campaign gives a platform for employers, youth and influencers to share the story of their first job and the role it played in helping them to reach their dreams.

Stories are also shared on social media targeting companies, foundations, institutions, media outlets, and other influencers seeking to support the youth. Campaign participants catalyse action by engaging young job seekers learn soft skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, confidence-building, setting goals and work ethics. They are also taught how to ace job interviews.

Job expectations of the youth are likewise addressed and they are taught that a job is more than just a paycheque.

"We widen up their (youth) horizons," di Florio said. "Some people who have a degree in engineering, for example, are also educated in sales, retail or other fields. After gaining soft skills, they take this route - different from their course in college - to get their first job at a major global brand and then secure a better role later."

Di Florio said that young people don't have to wait two to three years to get a job in the region because there are choices. They just need an inspiration or stepping stone to start their journey and this can be provided by young people who have been in the same situation before.

Climb ladder with confidence

Equipped with a civil engineering degree, 26-year-old Mueen Al-Nashif from Ramallah went to Dubai in 2014 to seek for a suitable job. But he found the market was competitive and young applicants were expected to have certain skills acquired before they can be hired.

After some months, he went back to Palestine and got into a programme initiated by the Education For Employment (EFE). He said he enrolled in a one-week training to build his communication skills, polish his CV and learn how to ace a job interview. He also acquired other soft skills like team-building and customer relations.

After the training he got into an eight-month paid internship an NGO (non-governmental organisation) where he initially worked a site engineer.

His experience opened up other doors for him and when he applied for work at a big construction he was able to clinch the job, besting 60 other applicants. 

He is now taking a bigger role and he is sharing his 'success story' through social media via the EFE network. He said what made him stood out among other young applicants was the soft skills he learned and the job experience he acquired - although at first it was not exactly related to his degree.

"You have to gain some work experience first," Al-Nashif told Khaleej Times. "Get a job even though it's not related to your degree because this will help you improve your personality. At the beginning you have to sacrifice, learn some skills then you will have a better chance to get your dream job," he concluded. 

Be open to possibilities

Egyptian national, Amira El Gohary, 25, completed a mass communication degree from one of Egypt's top universities, Cairo University, but this was not enough for her to immediately land a job after graduation.

"I was really disappointed at first," El Gohary said. "I sent my CV to many companies but I only receive one call back and I failed in the interview because I was not confident enough. So, I enrolled in an intensive training programme to learn soft skills. Then I worked as a recruitment coordinator at an outsourcing company for one year and seven months." 

Although her first job was unrelated to her college degree, it paved the way for El Gohary to build her network and now she is gainfully employed as a media and PR specialist. 

El Gohary said: "Initially I failed to land a job because I lacked the confidence and communications skills. My advice to young people who are looking for jobs is not to give up and learn to improve their skills.

"There are many helpful tools on the internet which can boost their marketability. They just have to be committed to learning these things," she added.

angel@khaleejtimes.com

 

 

Angel Tesorero


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