Despite recent progress in education, the youth unemployment rate in the Arab region is around 27 percent, according to Arab Development Portal, twice the global average of 13.6 percent last year.
An initiative organized by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and described as a bootcamp challenged participants to design innovative solutions to the youth unemployment problem.
“The days of being passive observers and resigning themselves to what has become their ‘fate’ is far behind us all,” said Malake El Haj, the foundation’s director of knowledge and innovation. “When given the opportunity, I find that youth tend to embrace and face their challenges.”
The initiative, called the MIT Innovation Leadership Bootcamp, was held in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the United Arab Emirates University’s Science and Innovation Park. It focused on skills such as creative collaboration, customer discovery and project design, with the aim of converting ideas into applicable solutions.
Covid-19 restrictions meant that what was originally planned as an intensive seven-day program was re-formatted over ten weeks. Participants had weekly face-to-face meetings lasting from three to four and a half hours, and one-hour coaching sessions with experts from MIT or the region. They also had face-to-face meetings with other team members and time each week for independent study and other tasks.
Firsthand Knowledge of the Challenge
El Haj said the 120 participants were students, job seekers or employed, and could therefore relate to the unemployment challenge on a personal level and come up with solutions that meet young people’s needs.
She said she hoped the experience would make participants more employable as they acquire job market skills. (See a related article, “Job Creation Efforts in the Middle East Hit a New Snag: Covid-19.”)