UNICEF Lebanon actively supports informed career choice for the nation’s youth

Mada Association hosted the latest in its nationwide series of youth career events, aimed at providing capacity building and mentorship for the country’s secondary-level students

Simon Balsom
Young people smile for the camera at the Sin El Fil Careers Day
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar
16 July 2019

Lebanon’s Mada Association hosted the latest in its nationwide series of youth career events, this time at Sin El Fil Municipality. Intending to provide capacity building and mentorship for the country’s secondary-level students, the two-day event provided direct support for local youth by training them on technical skills to improve their employability and empower them to access better employment opportunities.

"Everywhere we go across the country, we find the needs of the youth are the same," commented project coordinator Emile Asmar. “From the students of Akkar in north Lebanon to those we've been working within Beirut over the past two days, each one needs career-specific advice."

The Sin El Fil event provided most of the students with their first opportunity to connect to business, industry, and commerce, and provided a forum to discuss their future career hopes openly. Implemented by Mada Association in partnership with Empower NGO and supported by UNICEF Lebanon, the event was funded by Germany through the German Development Bank KfW and by the Government of the Netherlands.

"Everything we saw and heard here today is new to us, it has been an eye-opening experience for all of us." Leila, 16.

"For sure, there are numerous university and academic open days," continued Emile, "but too often they suit the purposes of the university rather than the student. Our career days have presented the only platform that allows today’s students and tomorrow’s employees to understand the real requirements of the workplace, while also providing information on their rights and responsibilities.

With 15 companies participating from across a variety of business sectors including agriculture, commerce, education, health, marketing, food, and service industries, throughout the two days of the event more than 400 children passed through the venue. Alongside meeting companies, Mada Association also organised a series of workshops for the students which focused on the general principles of employment, and introduction to labour law, and how to draft a powerful CV ahead of a job search.

For most, it was their first real contact with businesses on a professional level. 16-year-old Leila Mohammed, a student at Sin el Fil High School, noted, “Everything we saw and heard here today is new to us. From understanding the importance of a CV and how to write a strong one, through to simply having the opportunity to talk to employers and company owners on the skills and attributes they look for in an employee… it has been an eye-opening experience for all of us”.

Participating students in Career Day are benefiting from technical skills to improve their employability.
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

"It gives them a head start, an edge over others. By the time they leave here, they are aware of the needs of the labour market."

"Perhaps of most value," she added, "is they're able to tell us what direction our academic studies should head towards – they guided us on what majors we should be selecting to secure of post-education career choices."

Sara Baghdadi, co-organiser of the Sin El Fil event, noted that the strength of the days is in providing the youths with access to information. "Over these two days," she says, they have become aware of how to present themselves professionally. It gives them a head start, an edge over others. By the time they leave here, they are aware of the needs of the labour market. 

“They'll understand that the needs of the labour market are really rather somewhat specific. For example, a medium size company may require twenty-plus technically trained staff, but they'll only need one lawyer – so this highlights the reality that if a whole class train to be lawyers, they're creating an imbalance and many will likely end up unemployed. They're learning things here that they will never learn at school in Lebanon, they're learning realities”.

Nizar Sarieddine, of Yago Foods, said “The opportunity to be part of an event such as this presents a two-way-street. As well as advising students on the best way to enter a career in the food supply sector, we’re also here to learn what the new generation wants. We want to position ourselves as a responsive company, and a responsible company too”.

Participating students in Career Day are benefiting from technical skills to improve their employability.
UNICEF/Lebanon2019/RamzyHaydar

His thoughts echo those of Sara Baghdadi who, when selecting companies to be part of the Sin El Fil event, highlighted to them the value of local corporate social responsibility and engaging with their community.

For Nizar Amine and his AIDE organisation – an ongoing initiative for development and empowerment – they were here looking to recruit up to ten new trainers. Aside from this, they’ll also engage with a further 100 and provide additional support for training and communication skills.

The Mada Association-organised event with Empower was supported by UNICEF as part of a strategic partnership. “In UNICEF, we believe in youth’s critical role in the country, and this is why we have developed specific programmes to empower them in developing their technical skills and employability profile," said Amal Obeid, UNICEF youth and adolescent development specialist.

With 400 students benefitting during the Sin El Fil event, in addition to the 3,000 who attended earlier events across the country, together the Mada Association, Empower, UNICEF, the German Development Bank KfW and the Government of the Netherlands are empowering Lebanon’s youth and ensuring they are training for the real jobs of the future.