November 4, 2020

Graduate, to intern, to employee: middle steps make a difference

In 2020, one in five jobs in the Arab world requires digital skills that are not widely available today. Highly educated young people often still lack the digital, soft and technical skills required by much of the labour market.

For example, of the 8,000 annual graduates of technology-related disciplines in Jordan, only 21 percent now work in the field in which they have been trained. Good CV writing, interview techniques or soft skills such as languages are skills that help graduates stand out from the crowd. 

Market demands can change rapidly, but never more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic when the need for digital, e-commerce, software and app development skills for example, has never been in higher demand. With a wide variety of internships on offer, SPARK is creating new routes for youth to enter employment. 

© 2019, SPARK

Marva, a Syrian student in Turkey who successfully finished a SPARK internship as an assistant Accountant, is clear about what she learnt: “It’s important to keep trying and to realise that making mistakes is part of the learning process. It’s not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of”. 

SPARK creates partnerships with local, national and international private sector companies, such as McDonalds, Craft Fashion (Sameh Alshuraa & Partners Company) and the Jordan River Foundation, to provide internship opportunities to our network of almost 10,000 scholarship graduates in the Middle East. By linking graduates to employment opportunities, SPARK is able to guide vulnerable youth into the labour market. Internships are supported by international partners such as the EU, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Last year, of the 424 interns placed in 3-month internships in Jordan, 410 received full-time job offers upon completion! 

Around the world, internships are recognised as an important part of professional development; a chance for young graduates to apply their knowledge, learn practical skills, and make their first career steps. For companies and organisations it is a great opportunity to hire youth with fresh, innovative ideas, at low costs.

At first I was shy, but gradually my self-confidence grew

Throughout many fragile and conflict-affected regions in the Middle East though, internships are limited. Higher education institutions do not yet provide adequate training and companies are often reluctant to hire interns because they don’t see the long-term benefit of investing in training potential employees.

Marva’s internship was the first time she’d ever stepped foot in an office environment, and she loved it. As an assistant Accountant, she gained knowledge about basic accountancy, customs operations, bank relations, as well as import and export. Her Turkish also significantly improved as a result. “At first I was shy, but gradually my self-confidence grew and I could show that I was the right person on the job.” After the 3-month internship placement, she was offered a full time position. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the urgent need for digital skills and work experience among youth. SPARK recently received over 8,000 applications for a remote internship programme with capacity for 20 internship placements within Iraqi companies. The demand for remote, digital work experience opportunities from youth is sky-high.  

Soon, SPARK and the Dutch Postcode Lottery will launch 400 new internship opportunities in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, with priority given to young women. As part of the programme, universities will receive support to set up special internship desks at the campus and interns will receive career guidance from trained counsellors. Similarly, SPARK is setting up internship and career advice centres with support from the EU to offer vulnerable youth a chance to work and embed internship culture in the Middle Eastern labour markets.

As Marva looks back on her internship, she values the strong “sense of responsibility” she gained and how she learnt “to be open to the opinions of other colleagues”. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Marva was forced to leave the job she was offered. However, she says: “I learnt so much, in particular practical skills that you are expected to have, that I didn’t have when I started. This internship will help me in the future to find a new job.” 

To learn more about SPARK internships, visit Internships.