TVET Institutions and the World of Work in the Arab Region: Enhancing institutionalized partnerships

A regional workshop on PPP in the Arab world

In recent years, UNESCO has raised awareness of the significant challenges of youth employment in the Arab region and identified the potential of TVET in supporting sustainable and inclusive development. However, there exists a mismatch between the labour market needs and supply, which has rendered the system less efficient. In this regard, the organization recommends enhancing and strengthening partnerships between TVET institutions and the private sector in order to bridge the gap between supply and demand and to ensure a matching between the education system and the skills needed in the labor market.

Against this backdrop, and in the framework of UNESCO’s Strategy for TVET for 2016-2021 which stresses the need to foster an equitable, inclusive and sustainable society of active citizens, in line with SDG no. 4 and 8, addressing lifelong learning, life skills and 21st century skills, UNESCO Beirut organized on 23-24 September 2019 a regional workshop on “Enhancing Institutionalized Partnerships between TVET Institutions and the World of Work in the Arab Region”.

The two-day workshop, which was attended by high-level representatives of the public and private sectors from 14 Arab states, aimed to examine the state of public private partnerships (PPP) between TVET institutions and the private sector (PS) and the potential of expanding the provision of TVET and enhancing its quality and relevance, as well as to identify current national reform efforts, and explore areas for development of institutionalized partnerships between TVET institutions and the world of work throughout of the Arab region. Representatives of international organizations, other UN agencies, and partners also took part in the event, including: UNICEF, FAO, UNRWA, GIZ, European Training Foundation (ETF), Swiss Business Council-Lebanon (SBC-Lebanon), Association of Lebanese Industrialists, and Federation of Egyptian industries. 

In the opening session, UNESCO Beirut Director, Dr Hamed al Hamami, represented by Officer in Charge Dr Seiko Sugita, highlighted the importance of establishing a dialogue between the public and private sector in the Arab world in order to explore areas of cooperation and support employment. Al Hamami said: “Our meeting aims specifically to examine the state of public private partnerships (PPP) between TVET institutions and the private sector (PS) and the potential of expanding the provision of TVET and enhancing its quality and relevance. The results of the studies, report and workshop findings and recommendations will assist UNESCO and partners in planning their TVET programmes and strategies in the Arab region and in aligning them with the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  They will also assist TVET policy makers in the development and management of quality and relevant TVET programmes; build partnerships for stronger and more coherent interventions at a regional and national level, particularly between the public and the private sector; strengthen public private partnerships between TVET institutions and the world of work, contributing to enhancing the quality and relevance of TVET programme, and thus resulting in reducing the gap between supply and demand and enhance youth employment”.

In her speech, Dr Jinane Chaaban, Advisor to Lebanon’s Minister of Education and Higher Education and TVET focal point, pointing out the importance the Ministry attaches to the TVET sector, stressing that this sector can contribute to reducing the unemployment rate among youth in Lebanon. She also pointed to the challenges facing this sector in the Arab region, especially in terms of its reputation for being less important than higher education. Chaaban stressed the need to develop partnership, mutual understanding and cooperation between the private sector, TVET institutions and the government in order to overcome the mismatch between the labor market needs and supply. She also pointed out to the need of integrating people with special needs in the TVET system and ensuring their easy transition to the labor market. Chaaban thanked UNESCO for its continuous efforts and cooperation with the Ministry of Education with a view to achieving SDG 4.

As to Mr Salim Shehadeh, TVET Programme Specialist at UNESCO Beirut, he said: “In the Arab region, the demand for potential workers is relatively high; nevertheless, opportunities are limited due to the lack of required skills of individuals, due to a mismatch between the demanded skills in the job market and what is currently being offered in educational systems. Hence the need to connect the private and public sectors and to establish a real partnership between TVET institutions and companies, as a way to improve the relevance of education and training as well as school-to-work transitions through closer linkages with employers”.

The two-day workshop offered participants a platform to share experiences, best practices and success stories, and to reflect on the challenges of institutionalizing PPP in the Arab region. Three national studies conducted by UNESCO for Jordan, Palestine and Egypt were presented and discussed.   

Speaking of the importance of the workshop, Dr Maymouna Al Rawayhiya, TVET expert at the Ministry of Workforce in the Sultanate of Oman, said:


"This workshop provided participants with a unique opportunity to share points of views, expertise and experiences, drawn from the local, regional and international levels. It allowed Arab states representatives to reflect on the strength and weaknesses of their national experience from a comparative perspective. It also allowed for an encounter and a sincere dialogue and experience sharing between representatives of the public sector and the private sector: we learnt about the concerns and the needs of employers, and they learnt about the challenges TVET institutions face. This sharing of perspectives is fruitful and productive, and is a necessary and crucial step towards enhancing institutionalized partnerships between both sectors”.

As to Mr Ousama Al Azhari, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, he said:

"We all agree on the need to enhance partnerships between TVET institutions and the world of work in the Arab region. However, the question is: How to do that? This regional workshop provided insightful perspectives and innovative answers to this question by bringing together representatives from both the private and public sectors. It was an excellent opportunity to learn about the skills needed in the labor market, the type of employee profile employers require, and the possible incentives that could be given to the private sector to recruit TVET graduates”.

Ms Habiba Ezz Hosny, Advisor to Egypt’s Minister of Education for TVET and Director of the Minister’s Technical Secretariat, also expressed her satisfaction with the fruitful dialogue and experience sharing the workshop offered.

“It is always useful to share experiences among the Arab and North African countries, to learn from others’ points of strengths and challenges. In Egypt, we created a PPP model that capitalizes on existing successes and attempts to solve some challenges. It was great to see that our model called “Applied Technology schools” was positively received by participants from different countries. We look forward to capitalize on this experience and networking to expand our cooperation with Arab countries on TVET and PPP consolidation”.