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Skill development holds answer to taming unemployment, say experts

By Rayya Al Muheisen - Jul 16,2023 - Last updated at Jul 17,2023

AMMAN — With Jordan’s youth unemployment rate standing at an alarming 46 per cent, calls are on the rise to incorporate hands-on experience and digital skills training into curricula. 

As the world celebrated World Youth Skills Day on July 15, appeals were made to secure “meaningful employment” for Jordan’s youth. 

Among those affected by the challenges of unemployment is 29-year-old Lubna Issam, who has been stuck in an “unemployment loop” for nearly seven years.

“I completed my university education with high hopes, but finding a job that matches my qualifications has been challenging. You either don’t have enough qualifications or are overqualified — there’s nothing in between,” Issam told The Jordan Times. 

She added that practical skills and industry-specific knowledge are crucial for young job seekers, yet these skills are often not developed either in bachelor degree programmes or in secondary school, leaving many job seekers unemployed.

A fresh graduate has very low chances of being hired in the public sector. While the private sector want employees with sufficient skills to the job without having to “waste resources” on training, they do not want over-qualified candidates who could demand higher pay, she said.

“Finding this balance is almost impossible; therefore, unemployment rates are very high,” said Issam. 

As for vocational training in Jordan, Issam stated that it is still perceived as “lower level” education compared to a university degree. “Societal norms, social stigma and people’s opinions act as repellent factors when it comes to vocational training,” said Issam. 

The Ministry of Higher Education previously announced that 13 majors will no longer be offered at various Jordanian universities due to “market saturation”, and high unemployment rates. However, certain industries, such as hospitality and ICT sectors, are facing challenges due to brain drain, as noted by sector representatives.

Gladis Ibrahim, an education expert, told The Jordan Times that incorporating hands-on training, internships and practical experiences into the curriculum will make Jordanian graduates more competitive in the job market. 

“Investing in technology and digital infrastructure has been identified as a key strategy to enable remote learning and skill development, particularly in rural areas where access to traditional education may be limited,” Ibrahim added. 

Mazen Maaytah, the president of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions, highlighted the importance of nurturing the talents and capabilities of the youth. 

“The potential of Jordan’s youth is immense; we must prioritise skill development and ensure they are equipped to face the ever-changing job landscape,” he added.

Marking World Youth Skills Day, Maaytah emphasised the significance of this event for raising awareness and shedding light on fundamental issue imposed by the volatile labour market, as reported by the Jordan News Agency, Petra. 

Maaytah pointed out that the unemployment rate among youth aged 15-24 reached 46.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2023. 

“These figures underscore the necessity of investing in the development of youth’s skills at the national level, and integrating them into the labour market, considering its evolving demands,” Maaytah added. 

 

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