Employers work with universities to solve graduate underemployment in Jordan
Jordan is home to one of the world’s youngest populations, with 63% of its people under the age of 30. Despite large numbers of students enrolling in universities each year, around a third still struggle to find jobs after they graduate. According to Unicef Jordan, 32% of youth aged 15-30 are unemployed.
How to get graduates into jobs?
SPARK collaborates with universities and private sector companies in Jordan to find solutions that tackle low graduate employment rates. During the ‘Graduate Work Readiness: Challenges and Solutions’ focus group in March, part of the Skills Training Education Programme (STEP) funded by the Islamic Development Bank and Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Foundation, delegates from the Amman Arab University, Al Al-Bayt University, and Jordan University of Science and Technology, along with business-owners, recruitment companies and corporations with strong hiring power, had to chance to evaluate the market needs and effectiveness current higher education curricula.
Two key questions were posed: Why do university graduates face challenges in securing employment after graduation? And how can universities and the industry collaborate to improve the employability of graduates?
The experts from private sector industries advised on three clear barriers they face to hiring graduates.
“One of the main reasons for graduates’ inability to find a job is the gap between their academic studies and the job market needs,” explained Doaa A-lJa’ouni, General Manager at Al Shahama recruitment company. Much of the higher education curricula in Jordan is focused on theoretical knowledge, rather than practical or applied vocational training in specialised skills relevant to the labour market.
The mismatch between the skills taught in universities and those required by the job market is becoming increasingly prevalent with the advances in digital technology and automation that require rapid changes in knowledge and skills. Mounir Al-Hourani, Director of Strategies at VIRALL, suggested that graduates need to adapt to keep up with the pace of innovation.
Fresh graduates’ lack of work experience was frequently cited as a disadvantage by the industry experts. They suggested many employers prefer candidates with some experience, putting fresh graduates at a disadvantage. Additionally, they felt that some graduates may not be aware of the importance of internships or work placements during their studies, which could have given them a head start in building work experience.
The solutions to these employment barriers? Attendees worked together on how universities and employers can better support the employability of graduates.
Soft skills and digital literacy
“Soft skills are becoming more important than technical skills,” said Aseel Abu Amer, Human Resources Officer at Rumman Communication Agency. “Especially in the digital era. Therefore, universities should focus on developing students’ soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.” Moreover, participants emphasised the need to equip students with digital literacy and advanced technical skills.
Doaa A-lJa’ouni, General Manager at Al Shahama recruitment company, suggested: “Universities should pay more attention to practical training and work-integrated learning.”
Ola Hammoudeh, HR Manager at Durfy, proposed a solution. “One of the most important proposals I always advocate for to work on is the internship programmes. These programmes should be mandatory for universities, and students must participate to gain work experience to beome familiar with the labour market before graduation.”
Collaboration between universities and private sector
Khaled Bani Hamadan, Deanship of Student Affairs at the Arab Open University suggested that, going forward, better collaboration between higher education and employers is needed. He proposed: “Adopting educational and awareness programmes that start with career guidance and providing courses in labour laws, workers’ rights, and regulated systems such as social security.”
SPARK works as a facilitator, bringing together different stakeholders, for the benefit of youth and their future employment opportunities. As part of the Skills Training Education Programme (STEP), a series of workshops will be held with stakeholders to modernise existing university curricula and connect young people to the labour market by matching them with relevant training and internship placements. This programme will also update the optional ‘Work Ready Skills Course’ offered by the Deanship of Student Affairs for partner universities with support from career guidance centres like the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD).
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