Vocational Training Boost Needed – Al Qassem

If in the past Jordan’s education system was directed at encouraging students to embrace an academic path, now the pendulum must swing back towards vocational training, Arabian Business Consultants for Development CEO Laith al Qassem said during last month’s Educating for the Needs of the Labor Market conference.

The seasoned business consultant, who’s also a board member of the Young Entrepreneurs Association and helped establish around 20 startups, sees the shortage of skilled workers in Jordan as a strong incentive to boost its vocational programs and train the workers.

Why isn’t the higher education system producing young Jordanians with skills that employers need?

One should have a realistic understanding of the needs of the labor market. For example, we have around 120,000 registered engineers in the country. Of them, only roughly 10 percent work in the field. We need craftsmen and technicians to be able to translate this engineering knowledge into practice. The number of graduates in engineering is a nice trophy for the country, but it doesn’t help Jordan’s economy unfold.

What’s the state of vocational training programs in Jordan?

The length of  vocational education depends on the chosen sector; it could go from several months up to two years. At the end of the program each apprentice receives a certificate. But convincing parents and students to join vocational programs over universities is a tough task as their understanding of the labor market is based on a societal misconception. They both look down on vocational education in favor of universities, seeing the academic path as a way to earn a higher salary.

What could be done to encourage young people to join vocational programs?

The school system should identify students’ talents and channel them into the right program from a very early age. There also must be a national program that talks about the nobility and importance of technical skills for the economy and raise their status in the eyes of society. Vocational education must be considered as important, or even more, than an academic career.

What role should business play in getting more young Jordanians to sign up for vocational courses?

The vast majority of Jordan’s businesses are micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises. Because of their sizes, most of them lack the ability to do proper human resources recruitment, which can identify the skills and requirements needed in a certain company. This creates obstacles for straightforward communication between businesses and the vocational training corporations. If there was support for Jordan’s enterprises to help signal their needs to vocational training associations, it would be possible to build a network to train students and make economic use of them. This would bolster Jordan’s economy and help tackle unemployment in the medium-term.