Iraq has a youth unemployment rate of 36 percent, according to a 2018 World Bank document, and about 700,000 young Iraqis come onto the job market each year. (See a related article, “In Iraq, Hunger for Jobs Collides With a Government That Can’t Provide Them.”)
To meet the need for jobs, Abdulqader seeks to better align education and the labor market. “We have collaboration programs with local companies, like a retail company for food items all over Kurdistan to hire some of our graduates to work in marketing, management and IT,” she said. “We are trying to build relations with other companies to help the governorate create job opportunities.”
As of May 2021, Duhok, a governorate of 1.4 million people, hosts more than 84,000 Syrian refugees (one-third of all Syrian refugees in Iraq), and around 500,000 internally displaced people.
To cope with this load, Duhok Polytechnic University established a support unit and provided a course for Syrian refugee high-school graduates with low grades to enroll diploma studies. The program collaborates with HOPES, a European Union-funded project. (See a related article, “Refugee Education: Often-Discussed Problems Find Few Quick Solutions.”)
The university also collaborates with Unimed, the Mediterranean universities group.
“We have been working together since 2015 in the framework of a capacity-building project aimed to support refugees’ integration in the university,” Silvia Marchionne, a project manager with Unimed, told Al-Fanar Media.
Abdulqader said the university has over 200 refugee and displaced students now. The region once had as many as one million refugees and displaced people, she added.
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“It was a heavy load on the local government,” she said. “We were involved to help refugees continue their studies in a highly competitive environment, lowering the opportunities for local students.” (See a related article, “New Syrian Refugees in Iraq Struggle to Access Education.”)
“We are living with this for six to eight years so far,” she said. “We do our best to help both our students and the refugees.”