In our first classes at An-Najah University, we met with hundreds of young Palestinian students with the same question on their lips: “How can I gain employment?” The program that will answer this question for them is the Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!), sponsored by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation. Focusing on core professional competency skills from résumé-writing to skill-building and professionalism, students will hone their ability to successfully gain employment with transferable skills that will serve them for decades to come.
Young people the world over are currently voicing their priorities in the United Nations’ MyWorld Survey, and a good education and better job opportunities are two of the most highly-ranked priorities. Increasing employability is particularly important for Palestinian youth. With the unemployment rate reaching more than 20% in the West Bank and 31% in the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment is still a growing problem in Palestine. An overall lack of employability skills plagues many graduates, who have not had the career development support to prepare them in their professional endeavors. STEP! provides the support and guidance that university students need to refine their skills, present themselves to potential employers, and prepare them to be active members of the workforce and their communities.
The skills which TYO teaches and advocates are a long-term investment: in the youth, in the women, in the college students. We are investing in Palestine. For our students this week, stepping up into a highly competitive job market has meant identifying where they are now, and where they want to be in the future. They have set career goals, identified gaps in their own skill set, and begun to bridge these gaps by creating CVs and cover letters for the first time. Professional language and behavior, self-confidence and personal presentation are just a few of the building blocks that our students are now utilizing to prepare for their future.
While professional competency alongside mastery of the English language is one of the most essential skills missing from collegiate Palestinians, there is one vital soft-skill which, when overlooked, becomes detrimental to society. This skill is the ultimate tool in challenging the western perception of Palestine, which remains affected by the regional balance of power. Dr. Jawad Fatayer believes in the power of "public relations" and the ability of Palestinian youth to step up to public roles of leadership. This is his reasoning for teaching PR & Leadership courses at the An-Najah Honors College, in conjunction with TYO's STEP! program.
He discusses “micro” and “macro” PR on a scale that relates to the personal and the global: on a micro level PR could potentially help students represent themselves better to future employers, or market their future business endeavors. On a macro-level, successful Palestinians in any field such as business, media, or science could utilize their PR skills not only to benefit themselves, but to highlight the difficulties Palestinians face daily. Ultimately, these assets will inspire Palestinian youth to invest in themselves, and in their collective future.
-Nada, Michelle and Yvonne
This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.