Despite a significant improvement of formal education in the Middle Eastern countries during the past few decades the gap between education and employability is still widening. Governments across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have invested heavily in educational institutions, and the past decade saw a rapid expansion of primary and secondary education. However, the results haven’t been too good so far. Schools and universities are producing graduates who lack the skills they need to be successful in the job market, and the job market is hamstrung by the economy. The result: high rates of illiteracy and mass unemployment.
The belief that the educational systems in the Middle East are lagging behind isn‘t new. According to the Bayt.com survey, which was conducted in June 2013, 63 percent of professionals in the MENAS region said they felt the job market was picking up. However, 20 percent blamed the education system for being unprepared for the current requirements and skill sets needed by the job market. According to the same survey, the inadequacy of regional education systems is also seen as a big roadblock for career growth in the region. This is simply because education and professional training are needed to succeed in a highly competitive market. Other major impediments include bad managers (13.8%) and the bad economy. A fifth of respondents (20%) said they were looking to improve their skills by working at companies that provided learning opportunities and training programs. These were the most important factors when looking for jobs back then, but they’ve been overtaken by more recent concerns like the quality of the work environment and the pay.
When it comes to creativity and educational innovation in the Middle East, 73 percent of respondents say that their own creativity is being stifled by the current education system in their country. An additional 42 percent agree that their country’s education system needs to be more innovative in adapting to changing times.If you take age difference into account, the Millennial in Middle East Survey from February 2014 shows that almost three quarters (83 percent) of Millennials in the Middle East agree that unemployment is a significant problem in the region. When asked about the changes they’d like to see in their organizations, 51 percent of respondents stated they wanted training opportunities and the opportunity for employees to learn new skills.
There are all sorts of reasons to get an education and learn new skills. It gives you an advantage and perspective on the world, and helps you build a successful career. It would seem that the link between education and jobs is breaking down in the MENAS. What went wrong? Why has so much educational and public investment failed to produce a virtuous cycle of economic prosperity, job creation and expanded opportunities for young people? One common factor stands out among the different countries: the chronic misaligment between the education system and job market.
Bridging the gap between education and work
The Middle East urgently requires measures to address the mismatch between education and employment which implies the match of people who enter the job market with skills that are in demand.
Increase investments in training
It means building basic competencies, including literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, and the flexible skills associated to them. When you take a job, try to find a place where you can learn something new. Join a company that invests in its employees because the learning they get early in their careers is worth far more than any salary they could ever earn. The Bayt. com Learning in the MENA workplace poll, March 2015, showed that 25% of MENAs felt that adequate learning and training opportunities at the workplace was their top motivation apart from their salary; 98% of them said that working in an organization which provided learning and training was very important. Fortunately, most respondents in the MENA Skills and Hiring Trends Poll, January 2015, said they expect investments in training to increase in 2015.
Matching curricula and teaching styles with general skill needs of the current workforce.
This is a very complicated problem to solve, but at least we’re talking about it openly. Education providers should coordinate with corporate recruiters and become more aware of the needs of the job marketplace. A hunger for lifelong education should be instilled from an early age with a clear infrastructure put into place. Training initiatives should successfully combine the classroom with on-site training. Business training curriculum should include preparation for the real world and impart a clear understanding of how the real world works.
Capitalize on development programs.
If you don’t take the time, spend money, or learn how develop world class development programs, you won’t be able to compete. There is no real “war” for talent, there is instead a “war” for skills, and one of the best ways to win the war is to build your own internal army.
Rethink the education model.
The online courses offered through Bayt.com, an open online course (OOC) platform launched by the QueenRania Foundation, are just one example of the many technological disruptions that will reshape the future of education in Jordan. The Bayt.co Specialties is another great place for professionals to learn new skills and even get ranked for them. We at Bayt.com believe that everyone should be able to live the life of their dreams. So we are always trying to create innovative solutions to make it easy for both job seekers and companies to succeed in their learning or career.
Bayt.com’s research has shown that while education is viewed by many professionals in the Middle East as incomplete, training and development opportunities provided by employers are highly valued. Companies offering training would likely see lower employee turnover and a smaller skills gap. We can also conclude from this that without major changes in our current education system, the situation will continue to deteriorate. Most jobs today require more technical knowledge, problem solving, creativity, and better communication skills. Most people don’t realize what businesses want and universities don’ t necessarily teach them these skills either. This is why professionals need to start seriously considering other methods of gaining knowledge besides formal higher education, online sources, apprenticeships, or specialised training and workshops. There are many reasons for people to go to college, but ultimately they must be able to provide a pathway to a successful career.