Youth Employment in Palestine: Stakes and Challenges

International Intern class leads a professional development class at An Najah National University The unemployment rate among youth is one of the most salient challenges facing Palestinians today, as young people struggle to effectively navigate an already unstable job market.  TYO seeks to tackle these issues head-on through critical engagement with youth in Nablus, from early childhood education to the Student Training & Employability Program (STEP!). TYO is committed to preparing young people to be leaders of the coming generation and to building a stronger future for Palestine.

Through TYO’s partnership with An-Najah National University, International Interns are invited to work with university students by facilitating lectures and workshops on leadership and professional development. In these sessions, students are challenged to look into the future beyond university and realistically assess the areas in which they need growth. Many students lack confidence in their ability to effectively network, apply, or interview for a job. TYO Interns plan weekly exercises to hone such skills and prepare students for life beyond their degree.

Last week, Claire and I asked students in an An-Najah course on Leadership Development to consider how their passions and motivations connected to their career plans. As I walked through the rows of students, I was beckoned by a young woman who responded to these inquiries with a question of her own.

“What if we are unable to follow our passions?” she asked me. “In some cases, students cannot study what they want because they must consider if there is money in it. Other times, their parents are pushing them to study medicine or engineering for family pride. Besides, most students here are not even thinking about the future – they are too focused on getting high marks now. That is where the pressure is.”

I was not only impressed by this student’s engagement with the material, but also by the fervor with which she spoke. Her concerns expressed a real issue faced by university students. More young Palestinians are attending university than ever before, finishing degrees with high marks. Despite this fact young people in Palestine are under-prepared to face the job market, especially in a volatile economic climate further complicated by military occupation.

In this context, it is not enough to depend on higher education alone to solve the youth unemployment problem. Institutions must invest in models that allow students to leverage their talents to be proactive and effective in seeking employment. In doing so, Palestine can ensure that talented individuals become young professionals ready for the workforce.

-Jade is a Fall 2014 International Intern at TYO

STEP! is funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF).