Palestinian Employability Future between Preventive and Corrective Challenges. Supporting university graduates to transition to the world of work by strengthening their human capital through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competences, in order to generate competent professionals able to face global challenges.
Globalization poses new challenges for Palestinian youth and we are aware of the challenges within globalized and open communities, especially as we face weakening factors (acts) that delay development in terms of mobility. Pointing out that living under the current political circumstances reduces the possibilities of developing the identity of those young people. Therefore, we are committed to preparing our alumni’s’ future leaders, teachers, and researchers for the local and international network via reinforcing their cross-cultural awareness as perceived as a need in the region.
The world of employment is rapidly evolving and Palestine is categorized as one of the countries severely impacted by the COVID-19 economic crisis especially within the hospitality sector. All these concerns create an urgent call to collectively reflect on how we forecast the future of our Palestinian Labor force whose access to the local and international experience and exposure is limited even in the best of circumstances. Addressing these changes in meaningful ways is a topic of immense interest to parents, educators, graduates and potential employers, however, the question remains: How do we define ’employability’ under the current circumstances? What skills do our graduates need to succeed in the upcoming global market whilst coexisting with COVID-19? What is the role of the HEIs in Palestine in producing employable graduates in our ever-changing reality? What can we do as educators to contribute to the strengthening of economic and social solidity to secure sustainable employability development with the fact that we have limited resources? Palestinians are always urged to adapt and maintain the organization of virtual international events to sustain the improvement of the flow of knowledge and exchange of experiences between researchers and faculties. This will bridge the virtual exchange of students and professors at master’s and doctoral levels through the creation of programs and joint supervision of courses and the creation of a series of seminars between official joined the partnership. What we need now is to apply 21st-century good practices that target young graduates’ employability.
Although Palestinian educators and senior students worked hard to rapidly adapt to secure Summer 2020 graduation, working opportunities and travel are severely curtailed for the foreseeable future. These difficult times mean we need to find innovative ways to create work offers and international connections for young graduates who are not supported by a rescue employability plan. As mobility restrictions continue to control the socio-economic and education sectors in Palestine, the double burden of adapting to the effect of COVID-19 while living under occupation will further reduce the already limited possibilities of employability. Several educators grasped this opportunity and upgraded their communication, negotiation, signed international virtual agreements, shared what they know and practiced best, and accepted diversity towards one mutual goal which is defeating the Corona pandemic along with the sequential economic and social crises in Palestine. Therefore, we must find alternative ways to increase the competencies of individual graduates in order for them to become qualified, proactive members of the local and global labor force able to meet with the demands of the 21st-century. We must target to enhance and reinforce the potential of alumni’s’ outcomes in the development of their mindset. This takes place via structuring their dialogue towards self-awareness by reinforcing their globalized citizenship. It is an opportunity by all means to create new networks, partnerships, and developing joint projects to spread virtual employment opportunities.
Several virtual projects and programs launched best practices on how to adapt and conduct an existing in-person exchange or education program alongside an existing virtual exchange program on the current global conditions. By adopting those virtual initiatives, educators and students expand knowledge as it encourages dialogue and mutual exchange of information. The real gain is the massive exposure to the intercultural experience. The COVID-19 experience defined the importance of connecting educators and students working with internationalized entities who come from different cultures, a different way of life, of working and of thinking. During Spring 2019 and Summer 2020, several programs and webinars conducted by Anna Lindh Foundation, UNIMED, UNIMED SubNetwork, COIL Lasallian Teachers Network, UNESCO, ETF, EAIE, ITC, ILO, Search for Common Ground, Sharing Perspectives Foundation, Soliya, kiron, Migration Matters, UNICollaboration, Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange and many others shared remarkable stories of how educators have been able to meet the challenges of COVID-19 as each explained the training, the collaboration and the coordination that has made this possible. Recently the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik launched an “Online International Summer School 2020”, and FAO launched the elearning Academy project under the title “Strengthening capacity to face global challenges”. Those virtual activities will improve our HEIs general performance starting with management skills and the quality in the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and follow up with technical skills, all part of applying globalization best practices. It will enable us to connect us as educators to accelerate the speed and spread of sharing experience and knowledge as it enables us to get a broader panoramic understanding of the future labor market needs and demands. By then, we will be equipped and capable of promoting and creating a pool of opportunities for networking and drafting schemes to the development of alumni’s’ skills which serves the Palestinian society at large. The overall objective that we gain from all offered online programs and projects is to strengthen the Palestinian human capital specifically at higher education. The short term outcome will be to create a civilized generation that understands local and global issues with self-motivated lifelong learner skills, empowered to enhance professional and leadership skills. The deep impact of this training is developing cross-cultural communication skills and has the ability to engage in constructive dialogue across divides.
Digitalization is affecting how we interact with each other, perform our daily tasks, and ‘think big’ about the future – but how does it play out in the space of local employability?
Locally, the COVID-19 wave created a cross-cultural collaborative learning experience. Many educators learned how to better work collaboratively and have cross-cultural dialogue as part of reinforcing their networking opportunities with enterprises and socio-economic realities, and to increase the social responsibility in the university system to face the new challenges of the region, for example, Bethlehem University developed an institutionalization plan on how to bridge educators who conduct education and exchange programs to learn more how to design, prepare for, and facilitate future virtual exchange programming outreach, specifically designed to serve undergrads, alumni, educators, researchers, and administrative staff whose access to exchange academic programs will be restricted for some time. Therefore, by strengthening mobility opportunities the Institute of Hotel Management & Tourism and the Faculty of Science showed a proactive attitude to strengthen cooperation and collaboration with several virtual exchange projects and programs initiated during the Spring 2019 and Summer 2020 academic year. They signed an agreement to fully engage second, third, and fourth-year students under the umbrella of Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange Project as part of transitioning from in-person to future virtual employing opportunities by creating a new perspective of managing the transition from university to the world of work using a holistic approach. One of the programs that will be conducted by Sharing Perspectives Foundation and executed during Fall 2020 under “Cultural Encounters The Big Climate Movement” program as continuation with a higher structured motivational plan to increase the value and volume of these collative efforts for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.
Having personally embedded and integrated the virtual exchange project into my teaching in recent months, I can assert that the outcome has been positive and I highly recommend this approach. The adoption of these methods has helped me shift from a teacher-centered learning approach to a learner and virtual-training-centered approach. I believe that there is an urgent need to influence decision-makers, requesting that they accredit modern teaching methodologies that embed virtual exchange programs to increase the exposure of students and academics and impart the required skills to match the demands and expectations of local and international labor enterprises. To improve the quality of higher education and professional management and to strengthen the importance of education for the future labor market challenges, a strengthening of the interaction between HEIs, companies, local, national, and regional authorities is required.
Taking into consideration modernization, virtual accessibility, and best practices of internationalization as a tool to improve employability in the region, a collective collaboration to set a plan to improve and strengthen the role and potential of the development of employability by adopting a transversal entrepreneurial dialogue between local and international universities, companies and decision-makers is required. This means we further need to discuss together on how to move from emergency to sustainable innovation in online learning in Palestine, and to continue advocating an open and permanent dialogue on employability and support the realization of the new wave of practical business recruitment experiences in the context of education, training and youth workforce. This is an invitation to embrace the opportunity in front of us today. We can truly redefine who we are we as proactive and creative community. We have an important role to play to create a new and even stronger culture of learning. We don’t have all the answers for now, but we’re all on this journey together.
Mahdi Kleibo – Business lecturer, External Academic Relations Coordinator and Representative, Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility and Virtual Exchange Project Coordinator and Facilitator at Bethlehem University. He aims to facilitate modernization, accessibility to internationalization, and institutionalization through shifting current higher education teaching methods from a teacher-centered approach to a virtual learner-centered approach.
Shared by: Mahdi Kleibo