Filling the Employability Gap for Students in Palestine

13908263472_e4faa1674c_k Continuing education is a concept that is tends to coexist with luxuries such as access to higher education and employment rooted in career choices. Within Western culture, continuing education tends to be classes or workshops closely associated with one’s career path. The purpose of spending the time and effort to continue education after formal education is completed is to increase knowledge base in one’s field of expertise, to ensure methods of action within the work environment are current and relevant, and to set the stage for career advancement. Individuals who embrace lifelong learning may find continuing education to be a method to also obtain personal growth and satisfaction.

Within Palestine, higher education is available and many young adults obtain a university degree. According to the numbers published by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of students enrolled in universities and university colleges for the school year of 2014-2015 is 209,125. When the 12,270 students enrolled in community colleges are added, you have a total of 121,395 students enrolled in institutions of higher education within Palestine this year. While there are not up to date statistics regarding unemployment in Palestine, the majority of volunteers with whom I spoke expressed concern about the lack of employment opportunities available to them in the region. While some individuals may become discouraged by grim job prospects, many students and graduates at TYO eagerly spend their time finding ways to volunteer or continue learning on their own to develop skills needed to pursue employment successfully.

During recent discussions with some of the TYO university aged volunteers, I was enlightened to learn of not only the desire to increase skills to make them more employable, but also the eagerness to actively pursue activities to develop personal and professional growth. Many volunteers spoke of the importance of volunteering at TYO to give of their time to the younger students and interact with international staff, interns, and fellows. Several expressed their desire to improve English skills to make them more attractive to employers and to ease in cross cultural communication. All the volunteers were motivated and enthusiastic to continue their growth and determined to be prepared when such opportunities arise.

The time spent with the volunteers discussing their needs and desires for the future left me with a significant new understanding of my own culture. Within my culture, there are so many opportunities available with few limitations for many young people. Yet the desire and motivation to do the hard work to succeed isn’t always as prominent as what I witnessed in volunteers at TYO. The volunteers push past the obstacles present in their career paths, seek ways to improve their marketable skills, and meet challenges with strength and determination. The conversations of that day inspired and motivated me not only be more present in my own daily choices, but to actively support the volunteers as they continue to persistently overcome challenges with determination, strength, and grace.

The volunteers at TYO are a special group of young adults who are role models and sources of support for the youth within the center.  Given their self determination and incredible work ethic, it will be an exciting opportunity to see how their choices impact their future career paths.

The Youth Service Learning (YSL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.

Lindsey, International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator