Dealing With Youth Unemployment in Jordan
A Jordanian youth named Omair comes from the poorest area in Jordan. Several years ago he failed grade 12, which left little option for bridging back into the academic system or into the workforce. He had been without a job for two years and was desperate to help support his family of five siblings and his retired parents.
To make matters worse, the job market for youth in Jordan is a difficult one. Ms. Mayyada Abu-Jaber, the CEO of the Jordan Career Education Foundation (JCEF), says, “Jordan faces one of the highest youth unemployment crises in the region with a staggering figure of 29%. As youth approach their final year at university, they are faced with the realities of a selective labor market. The private sector in Jordan competes to become the pioneer in the region, and thus moves much faster than the academic system. Knowledge disseminated at universities is often outdated and not linked to the needs of the private sector.”
For some graduates, the job market is especially difficult. Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “Talented photographers, film makers, graphic designers find themselves jobless and frustrated, regretting ever having spent the time and effort in fostering their talents.”
JCEF is a non-profit organization with the mandate of youth empowerment through employment. In 2012 Ms. Abu-Jaber partnered with media and communications specialist Lars Schwetje to create the JCEF Media Fellowship Program (MFP). Schwetje is a veteran news journalist with experience in video-reporting from the early days of the Iraq War. “The MFP,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “was designed to fulfill two objectives: to give a positive voice for the youth using social and new media, and to disseminate cutting-edge knowledge to youth in the media and communication fields to make youth more desirable and increasingly attractive to employers both in the private and public sector.”
Ms. Abu-Jaber stresses that “… economic inclusion of young people is necessary for the progression and development of society.”
“JCEF will be able to give a voice to those that are unheard, the youth,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber. “It will offer solutions to the frustrated voices of youth demanding decent jobs and the right to earn a living and become active members of society. These demands were among the highest priorities during the Arab spring movement that started in the Arab region.”
Early in 2013, the MFP program recruited students from the poor areas of Jordan. “The youth,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “were rigorously questioned to understand their commitment and passion for their country and for being active citizens of society. They were also screened to ensure that they fit our criteria of being marginalized and economically distressed.”
Ms. Abu-Jaber adds, “It was appalling to interview so many talented youth that require support to achieve their potential.”
Omair was one of fourteen youth recruited to take part in the MFP. Ms. Abu-Jaber says that Omair “… loves photography, and while being interviewed showed us his photos on his mobile phone. We later learned that he does not own a camera and uses his friend's cameras to take photos.”
The recruited youth received comprehensive media, film, photography and business training. “Each week of the course,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “focused on a different media topic, including print journalism, radio, blogging, social media, 2D and 3D animation, graphic design, filmmaking, event management and the theory of art.”
The training was conducted using a corporate engagement model, with the participation of fourteen Jordanian media and communication organizations that offered fifty pro-bono corporate trainers to train the students. And in addition, each afternoon, the media fellows were linked to renowned international speakers worldwide to disseminate their knowledge and experience.
“The success of our media fellows,” says Ms. Abu-Jaber, “is not the mark they score in their exams, but the media and communication product that they develop to disseminate positive messaging about the importance of employment for youth and their role as economically active members of society.”
She goes on to say that “Omair learned how to use open-source technologies to create an e-portal for training modules that would be used to raise the skills of other youth to become employable. He is now placed in an internship at Prodigi - a social media company - and will be progressed into a full time job. Omair is the social media community manager for the company and is excelling.”
Extending Training to Other Youth
Omair's contribution to society does not stop there. “Our media fellows,” Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “deliver monthly one-day training programs to other youth fellows. These training sessions are focused in remote areas of Jordan. Youth exchange their knowledge and create Facebook pages to share their experience.
“So far, our media fellows have conducted two trainings in the north and will be duplicating a similar training program in the south.
“It is expected that we will be able to mobilize large numbers of youth throughout Jordan to carry out positive messaging campaigns and call other youth to join the labor market and become active members of society. The youth groups will be able to voice their opinions and open dialogue with the government and private sector to learn more the opportunities and to become part of the solution to the unemployment equation.”
JCEF is part of a broader initiative. Ms. Abu-Jaber says, “JCEF is an affiliate of the Education for Employment (EFE) and part of the EFE network operating in Jordan as well as Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunis.” JCEF will be able to duplicate a similar model through the EFE network to achieve a greater voice for youth via social and new media to support their country and their commitment to employment.
The bottom line: JCEF believes that every young person deserves an opportunity to get a job so that they may establish sustainable livelihoods.Click here
for links, pictures, and a YouTube conversation between President Bill Clinton and Ms. Mayyada Abu-Jaber