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June 8, 2022

How SPARK fosters entrepreneurship ecosystems in the Middle East and Turkey


Niran Zoubi, Founder of Scholascope

Involving governments, the private sector, higher education institutes and students in developing new, market-relevant entrepreneurship curricula at universities in Jordan and Turkey. SPARK and the Qatar Fund for Development create pathways for youth entrepreneurship to support struggling economies. 

Offering support to startups and SMEs can help create hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Yet, many young graduates with entrepreneurial ambitions lack the skills and know-how to become successful business people. Addressing this starts with higher education. 

In countries with high levels of youth unemployment yet high levels of entrepreneurship, such as Jordan and Turkey, SPARK works with higher education institutions to develop curricula to support business. The Global Entrepreneurship Index places Jordan as the 49th most entrepreneurial country globally, while Turkey sits even higher at 37th. 

Despite high rates of business ownership and the majority of both countries’ GDP reliant on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), both Jordan and Turkey have faced huge problems with youth unemployment in recent years. A problem that could be addressed by better-preparing youth for careers in entrepreneurship.  

Market-ready, entrepreneurship curriculum in universities
In this context, SPARK’s programme, Economic Resilience through COVID-19 financed by the Qatar Fund for Development, supports the development of entrepreneurial mindsets and competencies amongst both teachers and students.

By working closely with university professors and students, entrepreneurs, governmental entities and the private sector, SPARK and its partners develop entrepreneurial curricula that match the needs of the labour markets. 

A group discussion with entrepreneurs and university professors in Jordan ©2022, SPARK
University professor sharing his point of view about entrepreneurship ©2022, SPARK
One of the entrepreneurs explaining the talent gap in the labour market©2022, SPARK

A holistic and regional approach 

To date, SPARK has worked with 12 universities, both public and private, in Turkey and Jordan to assess and improve the entrepreneurial curricula on offer for students. Alongside our partners, SPARK conducted technical needs assessments of the university’s related curricula to assess which curricula offer the best opportunities for post-graduation employment. 

In both countries, it has been found that the skills being taught at universities often match the direct skills needed within the labour market. By working with the private sector and other stakeholders to design curricula, graduates are gaining market-relevant skills and becoming stronger candidates for job opportunities. 

“The Jordanian workforce is eager to have the toolset that would support them [entrepreneurs] to flourish in the economy,” says Dr. Lena Abu-El-Haija, Head of Department, Industrial Engineering at German Jordanian University. 

Presently, SPARK is engaged with four universities in Jordan (German Jordanian University, Al-al Bayt University, Zarqa University and Jordanian University of Science and Technology – JUST) and two universities in Turkey (Kahramanmaras Sütçü Imam University and the University of Gaziantep), which have committed to implementing entrepreneurial curriculum development and enhancement.

Now, SPARK and its partners have begun conducting focus groups with entrepreneurs that hold university degrees. Their input and insights with regard to the content and methods of teaching entrepreneurship courses will contribute to the design of new curricula. Workshops are in progress in both countries involving professors from higher education institutions to discuss the most critical dimensions in developing an effective and modern curriculum. The aim is to develop entrepreneurial mindsets among students.

“It was a very fruitful discussion and matched the event’s goals. This group discussion helped bridge entrepreneurs and professors, and both were able to identify the limitations and needs of currently used curricula and how to develop them,” Ma’en Zaid Al-Muhaisen, Founder of Mosaic, commented on the recent workshop in Jordan.

Over the next 14 months, teacher training workshops will ensure the new curricula are well introduced and integrated. Later on, pilot courses will be introduced for 200 students in Turkey and Jordan’s six higher education institutions, with new enrolments continuing after the pilot phase.