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British Council / League of Arab States host gathering of international experts to match students with employers

A major conference aimed at addressing high levels of unemployment in the Arab World gets underway in Cairo, Egypt, today.

More than 100 experts will consider how to create more work for young people, one of the biggest economic and political problems facing Arab leaders today.

The British Council’s Symposium for Employability, Skills and Opportunities For young people in the Arab World, held in partnership with the League of Arab States, brings together private employers, government representatives, civil society activists, educationalists and academics.

They will consider how to tackle the region’s chronic skills shortage and help schools and universities prepare their students better for the world of employment.

Adrian Chadwick, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa for the British Council, said: “It’s a great opportunity to look at current research, some from the UK and some from the MENA region, discover successful projects and understand what is leading to that success.”

Magda Zaki, Direct Education and Scientific Research Department at the League of Arab States, said: “Arab youth have qualifications but lack some skills and we need to encourage them to acquire those skills”.

Job creation remains the region’s biggest economic priority, with 4 million young people joining the job market every year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

It’s estimated that the UNDP that the Arab World will need to create 50 million jobs by 2020 to accommodate its growing workforce. The region has the world’s most youthful population, with 30 percent of people aged between 15 and 29.

This Symposium brings together experts from the UK and from 12 Arab countries, including Ministry representatives from nine of those countries. As the UK’s international organisation for education, the British Council aims to connect UK and Arab educationalists and share their expertise and form new partnerships.

The British Council believes that the key to addressing Arab youth unemployment is creating targeted education for employment initiatives. Adrian Chadwick said: “All the experience globally and in the region is pointing to the fact that successful projects need partnerships – industry, civil society, universities – and they’re all here in the Symposium.”

Included in discussions will be the importance of English language skills, which for many students are the gateway to better job opportunities and higher pay.