Graduate unemployment: Same, same, but different.

An intern leads the professional competency course at An-Najah University. When you have the opportunity to travel abroad and immerse yourself in another culture, you begin to notice more similarities than differences between your culture and the one you are visiting. As they say in Thailand, “Same, same, but different.” The TYO international interns run Professional Competency classes at An-Najah University, and from talking to the students, the interns found that a lot of the issues facing recent graduates in Palestine are similar to any other country. However, given the complex political situation in Palestine, there are some unique obstacles that recent graduates have to overcome.

At the end of one of the Professional Competency classes, a handful of 3rd and 4th year students gathered to candidly share their perspective on unemployment for college graduates.

Like many civil engineers, Amjad and Omar are concerned with their odds of finding work because their major is particularly popular and unfortunately has a lack of available positions in Palestine.   They estimate a lengthy search to find their first job- for the first 2 or 3 months they plan to focus their search locally, but after that they will consider a search abroad. The correlation between the popularity of a degree and a shortage of available graduate positions is an all too common trend in many countries. In the US, one of the most popular degrees is psychology, however, data also shows that psychology graduates are the most unlikely graduates to find relevant work.

The students are painfully aware of the weak job market in Nablus and throughout Palestine. Despite their desire to remain near their homes, they are willing to move overseas to develop their skills and return again in the future. Enas, a third year English literature major, would be willing to look overseas, especially since she has family that is already living and working in the UAE. Again, young graduates traveling abroad for opportunity is a trend seen elsewhere in the world. New Zealand is constantly losing it's brightest and most skilled young people to countries that can provide more opportunity and money. Many return back home with their acquired skills and wealth, just as the Nabulsi's, but inevitably many don't return. This is so common in New Zealand, politicians regularly debate about the “Brain Drain” that haunts the country.

A university degree is not a one-way ticket to a dream job. Latest figures from the US suggested that “nearly half of the nation's recent college graduates work jobs that do not require a degree.”  When asked if they knew any recent graduates who have found employment, Ramsis, a 4th year information technology major, commented that he knew of two people who successfully found positions immediately after graduation. However, he was acutely aware that their situation was an anomaly for An-Najah graduates.

Yes, Nabulsi graduates are facing similar unemployment issues to graduates from all around the world, but an added factor in the current political situation. Nablus is still economically recovering from the Second Intifada and is relying on positive outcomes from the Middle East Peace Process to make dramatic economic advances, this lagging economy greatly effects prospects for new graduates. Thus, students are feeling forced to search for work abroad or face sustained unemployment.

Despite the many obstacles Nabulsi students face, they are sill optimistic about a brighter future for themselves and their peers in the class. After all, these students have enrolled in extra-curricular coursework to further prepare themselves for the leap from academia to the ‘real’ world.

TYO's professional competency classes for enrolled  students at An Najah National University, like those discussed above, are made possible through generous support from the Abdul –Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF).

-TYO Interns, Katherine and Celia