Khadija Abass is the communications manager at Dutch-Palestinian social impact edtech, the Talent Acceleration Platform
Education is the fourth sustainable development goal and is a fundamental building block for prosperity in society. When it is inclusive and of a high standard, education fosters tolerance through knowledge-sharing as well as intercultural, inter-racial and inter-religious awareness. It opens up career opportunities, enabling upward socioeconomic mobility while at the same time reducing inequalities and creating an environment for societies to thrive.
In the case of Palestine, there is a high level of formal tertiary education among the population however, a substantial skills gap between the qualifications obtained at universities and the demands of the labour market is a recipe for youth unemployment. This is exacerbated by the occupation which - through checkpoints, violence, and discriminatory laws - limits the freedom of movement of Palestinians and their access to opportunities. The result is a youth unemployment rate of 40 per cent across Palestine which skyrockets to 60 per cent in Gaza to hold the position as the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Required therefore, is a cross-sectoral and solutions-driven approach to understanding and addressing these challenges.
A global challenge
While the skills gap is a major challenge in Palestine, it is one that hinders the prosperity of much of the world’s youth. In 2020, UNICEF carried out a survey in 150 countries and questioned 40,000 young people about their confidence in their skills to get them jobs. Many were not confident in their skills, and this was reinforced by a 2021 UNICEF report that analysed 108 countries and found that employees in over half of the countries reported a skills mismatch between their jobs and their education level and qualifications. This means that the skills mismatch is a major element contributing to global youth unemployment which is expected to reach 14.4 per cent in 2023.
Required therefore are properly designed education curricula and programmes which are developed through cross-sectoral collaboration among universities, governments, and businesses. Based on an assessment of the needs of the job market, a sustainable skills strategy can be developed to ensure that programmes teach essential skills and match the expectations of students in an increasingly digital economy. On the latter point of expectations, the satisfaction of students should not be minimised. Preventing dropouts from educational programmes is important to ensure that public and private sector investments are not lost due to dissatisfaction with curricula. By utilising a learning experience designer, the educational programmes can be made more engaging and enjoyable, it can embed academic, technical, and employability skills, and decrease the dropout rate.
Cross-sectoral collaboration to create demand-driven educational programmes that balance technical and employability skills, along with incorporating a learning experience designer for better engagement in the curriculum and uptake of information on the part of students, are two solutions to driving the fourth sustainable development goal, being quality education. It is also a means to redress youth unemployment globally, as well as to redress youth unemployment in Palestine which is in a much more dire situation.
Challenges to the socio-economic prosperity of youth in Palestine
The Palestinian population is very young, with a third of the population between the ages of 15 and 29. With this population growing rapidly, there is an increasing level of stress on the country’s infrastructure and social services due to a very high youth unemployment rate. Currently, youth unemployment lies at 40 per cent, increasing to 55 per cent for university graduates, and increasing even higher to 60 per cent for women as well as for youth in Gaza .
The fact that development and opportunities for youth in Palestine also depend on the political situation as well as whether they can move freely, even within their own country, presents a graver challenge to youth development than elsewhere in the world. Limited freedom of movement has traditionally resulted in limited opportunities thereby fuelling unequal economic growth between Palestine and the rest of the world, as well as within Palestine, contributing towards a lack of social cohesion.
Redressing youth unemployment in Palestine
Although the occupation constrains the movement of Palestinians, we must search for solutions to reduce its impact on the opportunities available to Palestinians and their chances for socioeconomic prosperity. The digital economy presents such an opportunity.
The Talent Acceleration Platform (TAP), a Dutch-Palestinian company, is investing in a tech ecosystem in the region by offering programmes in web development, business-to-business technology sales, as well as digital marketing – thereby aligning with the demands of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and Industrial Revolution 5.0.
The programmes teach students all the technical skills needed for these in-demand digital roles while at the same time empowering them with soft skills which builds students’ communication and personal branding skills, as well as their confidence, growth mindsets, entrepreneurship mentalities, and overall job-readiness. Coupled with an internship period to put the acquired knowledge into practice, as well as mentorship for career guidance, support, and motivation; TAP’s programmes represent the quality education that is currently lacking at universities to bridge the skills gap between education and employment.
All of TAP’s training takes place online. This ensures that the physical barriers propped up by the occupation to constrain the movement of Palestinians does not hinder access to the programmes nor their potential for successful and vibrant futures. In fact, access to the programmes is further supported by income sharing agreements (ISA) that make it possible for Palestinian youth to join the programmes for free and only pay for the cost of training once they have landed jobs and are earning over a certain threshold.
Income sharing agreements are a great way for impact companies and social entrepreneurs to make investments in the futures of youth across the world. Not only do they ensure full access to the programmes regardless of the socio-economic backgrounds of students, but they also drive mutual collaboration between companies and students. It double-motivates companies to provide the best demand-driven education and to effectively partner graduates with hiring companies, while enabling the longevity of the company.
Over the past year, the Talent Acceleration Platform has already provided over one hundred students with education, training and internships in web development and business-to-business tech sales. TAP’s mission for 2023 is to train a further 200 youth in Palestine, recognising that a targeted investment in education truly is the most sustainable path to upward socioeconomic mobility and empowerment for youth.