Egyptian students turn to private companies for employable skills

While Egypt places its official unemployment rate at 7.2%the actual number of Egyptians who are not working, underemployed, or working in jobs that do not match their skills is said to be much higher.

This is largely due to the country’s education system which, although improved, still does not meet the needs of students.

It is also a setback for employers desperate for skilled labor, which hampers Egypt’s economic growth.

Pay the price

Egypt’s large population of over 100 million and its growing youthful workforce are major contributors to the rising unemployment rate in the country.

“We know that the unemployment rate in Egypt, for example, and in other countries (in the region) is the highest among higher education levels – it is 22% – and much lower in secondary and vocational education, because employers need more professional skills than they need higher education”, said Biljana Ker-Lindsay, head of access to skills and employment at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

There are a limited number of vacancies at tertiary and advanced skills level, with the majority of vacancies expected to be filled by people with technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in tourism and tourism. agriculture, according to the EBRD.

Egypt consistently scores below the regional average in education and skills for the current and future workforce, Ker-Lindsay said.

“We find that almost half of young workers in Egypt are in professions that don’t match their education, and that’s a very big problem,” she told Al-Monitor.

The cost tends to fall on employers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who must pay the salaries of underperforming employees, upgrade their skills, or fire and then rehire competent talent.

In Turkey, the cost of staff turnover for an agricultural enterprise with 800 workers was over $900,000 per year in direct and indirect costs, including lost productivity. That equates to 14% of the company’s annual revenue, according to a joint study by the EBRD and the International Center for Research on Women think tank.

“It has a major impact on GDP,” Ker-Lindsay said, because the collective price lets SMEs bear the burden and limits their potential growth.

Overeducated, underemployed

According to Egyptian employers, students are graduating from universities and colleges without the skills needed to enter today’s job market.

“If you want very professional people, it’s very difficult to find them because most of them just travel to work in other countries,” said Dalia Ibrahim, CEO of Nahdet Misr Publishing Group in Cairo, adding that she needed to find a short-term contract. the solution.

That solution was to create a school within the printing company about eight years ago. Today, the educational institution has 600 students and certifies graduates with a government-approved degree upon completion of the three-year program.

Last year, she founded career education solutions company Ta’heal to bridge the skills gap between educational institutions and employers in other industries.

Shaping old minds

The 84-year-old printing company has expanded its role in education to work with Ministries of Education in Egypt and other Arab countries to find long-term solutions – and also to change mindsets stubborn, which Ibrahim considers the biggest obstacle.

“It’s cultural pressure that pushes people to go to college, after which they don’t find jobs that match what they studied,” Ibrahim said.

The stigma, she said, lies in the social perception that working in a professional field means a person is uneducated, unskilled or unable to earn money, which is not the case. .

professional talent is not limited to plumbers and electricians but may include occupations that require higher level training and certification, such as workingpractice with specialized renewable energy devices or, as in the case of Ibrahim, management of sensitive and expensive printing machines.

“Unfortunately, this mindset is missing from the people of Egypt. This is what the Minister of Education has been doing for the past five years, to turn studies into the pleasure of learning,” said Ibrahim, who believes that the idea of ​​impactful and lifelong learning is surely but slowly coming to fruition.

Egypt moved up 23 places in the United Nations Development Program Global Knowledge Index rankings for the TVET sector in 2020, rising from 80th to 103rd place.

Education company

Upgrading skills is what Mahmoud Abd El Gaid has been doing since he set foot in a kitchen for his first part-time job at the age of 15.

“I didn’t even have an ID back then,” said the now 27-year-old chef. “But that’s when I discovered there was a kind of pride between me and the kitchen.”

What started with learning how to make pizza and pasta in the kitchen of a sports club in Cairo leads Gaid down a lucrative and fulfilling path in the young chef’s career.

He participated in a five-year hospitality program while in high school and earned his bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism, but he said that wasn’t enough to excel in. a industry which represents about 15% of the Egyptian GDP.

The young chef regularly takes courses and workshops under the tutelage of international chefs, works full-time in addition to restaurant management consulting and hones his skills to win the top five places in global cooking competitions.

The search for self-certification is a growing trend among young people, a mindset that education experts say has been propelled by the pandemic and the entrepreneurial independence of younger generations.

“They are choosing not to look at the four-year program and just enroll in courses teaching foundation diplomas or certificates. this allow them to go into their potential areas of interest,” said Dalia Mahmoud, a strategic education consultant based between Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Mahmoud facilitates between graduates in difficulty to find work and educational institutions seeking to bridge the gap between employers and new entrants.

“Because they don’t meet the hiring criteria, people see the value in non-traditional accreditation,” she told Al-Monitor.which asks individuals to search online for so-called micro-certificates from private institutions to improve their viability.

Young Arabic speakers are turning to platforms such as the IDRAK Virtual Academy and Coursera in English, which have vast digital libraries to learn skills instead of relying on traditional educational institutions. They also obtain certificates directly from Google and other private companies they want to work for.

The tide is turning in Egypt and the greater region, Mahmoud said, and government institutions will have to adapt.

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