The wars in Syria are still sharply affecting its Jordanian neighbor, where almost a million Syrians have today taken refuge. Over the years, youth unemployment has gradually become the country’s main concern. With an unemployment rate of 36% among the 15-24 year-olds in 2017, while half of the population is under 20, the country is in a tight spot: it must work for youth employment.
There is a great sense of frustration among Jordanian youth, especially when they have qualifications, as the jobs which are currently available often mean starting at the bottom of the ladder at unskilled levels. Syrian refugees, for their part, have to cope with the restrictions which apply to their work permits (they are only authorized to work in certain sectors and professions), when they have one...
A large-scale initiative
And what if the solution was to be found in vocational training and entrepreneurship? This is in any case the challenge taken up by AFD, which is supporting three projects via the Sawa Initiative for the Middle East. It is the first time that Jordan is benefiting from this regional initiative designed to meet the essential needs of vulnerable populations.
The agreements were signed on 27 March 2018 and amount to a total of EUR 8m of grants. The objective: reconcile skills and job vacancies and make youth permanently synonymous with employment, for both Jordanians and Syrians.
These projects are going to strengthen the employability of young Jordanians and refugees, by improving vocational training systems and tailoring them to the needs of companies.
These projects with evocative names – Amal (“hope” in Arabic), Tanmyeh (development) and Taghyyr (change) – have the same goal: speed up the integration of youth into the labor market thanks to short-term and appropriate training.
Breaking down prejudices
The main sectors targeted: the hotel sector and industry sector, which alone account for 18% of national GDP. The initiative has not forgotten women: they should make up half of the students on these training courses.
But beyond the economic impact of the program, there is another ambition in sight: improve the image of technical and vocational training among young people, which is today undervalued, or even denigrated. By presenting it as a solution to unemployment and the precariousness of the most vulnerable, the Sawa Initiative for the Middle East aims to change attitudes and perceptions among the populations the most concerned by unemployment.
For the implementation of the program, priority is given to the partnership with local actors: Jordan Education For Employment (JEFE) for Amal, Business Development Center (BDC) and the Chambers of Industry of Amman, Irbid and Zarqa for Tanmyeh, Luminus Foundation (in partnership with AFPA) for Taghyyr. All these institutions tailor their approaches to the specificities of the employment areas in the targeted regions. The training will be given close to the learners’ homes and will even come with a little financial bonus for lunch and travel.
In addition to technical skills, the training will focus on “interpersonal skills” (punctuality, communication in the workplace, etc.) and on entrepreneurship, to promote the creation of start-ups. The program’s three projects will train a total of 4,550 young people. To avoid dropouts, the system has even planned personalized follow-up in employment. Behind these initiatives, there is a new wave of hope: build a generation of entrepreneurs and job creators who will contribute to the country’s development.