Empowering Lebanese and Syrian vulnerable youth through accelerated vocational training
Nada el Ahmad is a 19-year-old girl, who fled her home country, Syria, due to the ongoing conflict, and has settled in Lebanon. In order to support herself and her family in the difficult conditions, Nada decided to search for a decent job opportunity; however, given that she had dropped out of school at an early age, she lacked the required skills to enter the world of work. While Nada was losing hope, she coincidentally learnt about a programme of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) that UNESCO Beirut was implementing. . Nada immediately enrolled in the programme. This was, for her, a life-changing moment. As she puts it: “When I started the course, I felt self-confident and self-empowered. My fate was now in my own hands. I enrolled in a training course for waiters to build my skills, learn how to deal with clients, and apply for a job opportunity whenever it arises”.
Nada is one of the beneficiaries of the project “Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Programme for Lebanese and Syrian vulnerable youth affected by the Syrian crisis in Lebanon” launched by UNESCO Beirut in September 2019 and implemented in partnership with Safadi Foundation. Generously funded by Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the project aims to empower Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese youth in the North of Lebanon (Tripoli and surroundings, Dannieh-Akkar, Koura, Zgharta, Qalmoun and Batroun) to participate in the labor market through short-term TVET Programmes and Accelerated Vocational Training. More specifically, the project promotes youth employability and/or self-employment through market-oriented certified technical training programmes, so as to empower youth and equip them with the necessary skills to participate in the labor market and become productive members of their society. It also builds the capacity of TVET instructors from selected training institutions on life and work skills.
Targeting 200 vulnerable youth aged 15-24, including Syrian refugees (40%) and Lebanese vulnerable youth affected by the impact of the Syria crisis (60%), the project has a big outreach and benefits equally young men and women in host and displaced communities. The programme offers beneficiaries 10 short-term accelerated vocational training courses (Sewing and tailoring, Electrical installation, Mobile repair, Tiling, Sous Chef, Waiter, General plumbing, Cosmetics and beauty, Secretary, General Carpentry), one life and soft skills training, three BLN trainings (ICT, English and Math), and one business skills and coaching training.
Mohamad Afife, a 24-year-old young man from Lebanon, is one of the few male figures present in the course of knitting. Fully focused on knitting a dress, he speaks of his dream: “My ultimate goal is to become a designer”. Aware of the community pressure that he might face, Mohamad says that nothing will stop him from pursuing his dream. He admits: “For years, I had considered that my dream is unattainable. But one day, I knew about this training programme and I thought to myself: My dream is closer than ever!”. After completion of the course, Mohamad will be able to get an experience through an internship with a designing house. In fact, UNESCO Beirut and Safadi Foundation have managed to build a partnership with 30 private sector businesses, that allows the graduates of this programme to intern at the private companies and eventually get a job opportunity.
Concretely, the project contributes to SDG 4, which aims at ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Inclusiveness is ensured through establishing gender equality, but also through integrating people with special needs.
Maysa Cheryala is one of them. Aged 18 years old and having special needs, her overprotective parents didn’t allow her to go to school. Maysa was thus deprived not only of her right to education, but also of her chance to integrate in any group. Until the day her relatives heard about the knitting course offered by UNESCO Beirut and Safadi Foundation through this project, and encouraged her parents to enroll her in the course. Maysa speaks with joy about her experience: “Since I enrolled in this course, I feel more self-confident; I feel I am productive, and also that I have friends”. Showing the clothes she knit for her family, Maysa said : “I have proved that I am able to achieve my goal, like anyone else”.
Based on the success of this project, UNESCO Beirut may extend it to other regions in Lebanon.