Private sector engagement key to skills development in Lebanon

The ILO and Safadi Foundation engage the private sector in every step of the design and implementation of vocational training to help create the workforce that the country’s labour market needs and build effective pathways for employment.

Article | 29 July 2022

One of the core challenges facing skills development in Lebanon is the considerable mismatch between skills and occupations that are in demand by the labour market and those supplied through the education and skills training system, severely hampering young people’s employability.

In 2019, the youth unemployment rate in Lebanon reached 23.3 per cent – more than double the general unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent – and about half of unemployed young people had been looking for work for more than 12 months, according to Lebanon’s Labour Force and Household Living Conditions Survey.

The multifaceted crisis facing Lebanon has made this challenge even more pressing (As per the follow-up LFHS 2022 youth unemployment is 47.8%) and highlighted the urgent need to equip young people and workers with the right skills to accelerate the transition to a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient economy.. Achieving this requires intensive investment in education and skills training and, in particular, expanded partnerships with employers to improve the quality of skills development and build effective pathways for employment.

The greater the involvement of employer and business member organizations, the greater the opportunity to close skills and labour market gaps. Strengthening partnerships between training institutions and employers and supporting their regular engagement in various stages of skills development – from design and implementation to monitoring and evaluation of training programmes – is critical to closing these gaps. Such partnerships reveal which competencies are in demand (following analysis of market needs, opportunities and skills gaps), provide internship and other workplace-based training opportunities, and, most importantly, help secure job opportunities after the completion of training.

The engagement of the private sector is one of the fundamental principles of competency-based vocational training programmes delivered in collaboration with Lebanon’s Safadi Foundation under the second phase of the Skill-Up Lebanon project – a joint initiative by the ILO and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. These training programmes aim to improve the acquisition of market-relevant skills and increase employability of Syrian refugees and Lebanese youth. So far, 100 women and men received training in agri-food processing, advanced welding, advanced plumbing, and elderly home caregiving, and additional 35 will benefit from training in green occupations later in 2022.

The Safadi Foundation has signed agreements with several private sector companies operating in each of the four fields in which the training has been delivered. The agreements involve employers in the curriculum reviews, provision of on-the-job training, and the design and implementation of tests to ensure recognition of certifications.

Mireille Sleiman, Deputy General Manager of Dar Al-Zahraa, one of the companies that provided on-the-job training opportunities in the field of elderly care, emphasized benefits of partnerships with employers in skills training.

“It is a win-win situation,” Sleiman explained. “The trainees benefit from work experience and easier access to job opportunities after completion of the training, while the private sector benefits from skilled workforce who meet their specific needs,” she added.

Mohammed Awde, owner of the Awde Steel Company in Tripoli, stressed the importance of private sector engagement in assessing labour market needs and identifying gaps in the workforce as a basis for developing training programmes, including competency-based curricula in line with labour market requirements.

“This way employers address their own needs while helping youth gain much needed skills and finding decent job opportunities to improve their livelihoods,” Awde said.

Maya Alameddine, Food Production Expert at the “Khayrat” cooperative in Akkar, praised the support youth receive from such partnerships, including capacity building activities such as pre-enrolment career orientation, as well as post-training support services including paid on-the-job training.

However, for Alameddine, the most important outcome of these training programmes implemented in partnership between the private sector and local and international organizations is the accreditation they provide.
“Trainees acquire an attested certificate from the Lebanese Ministry of Labour and from third parties relating to each field of training, which enables them to kick-start their career paths,” Alameddine said.