On 23 -24 October, UNESCO gathered 62 participants from 19 countries for a two-day seminar in Paris to share findings of skills forecasting in the South Mediterranean region with a focus on youth employment in Algeria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.
To face youth disengagement and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world in the South Mediterranean region, UNESCO has been collaborating with countries in the region since 2014 through the Networks of Mediterranean Youth project (NET-MED Youth), sponsored by the European Union.
One of NET-MED Youth’s focus areas was to reinforce the relevance of education and training systems to enhance youth employment and skills. This is achieved mainly by strengthening the national skills forecasting systems, empowering youth organizations’ capacities to include them in policy dialogue and planning, and supporting youth-led national communication campaigns to advocate for better understanding skills needs.
The project will be ending this year, and the aim of the seminar is to present the project’s main outcomes regarding the forecasting work. The seminar is an opportunity to share international experiences and provide a platform for discussion among national teams. It is also about paving the way for the use and dissemination of skills forecasting results to identify the necessary areas that need further strengthening.
At the opening of the meeting, Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant-Director General for UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector emphasized the benefits of the multidisciplinary nature of the NET-MED Youth project to answer the multifaceted challenges that the youth in the Mediterranean Area is facing:
“The work that we are going to do today is very important. It takes place in the context of a flagship project, the NET-MED Youth, and it is based on the multidisciplinary expertise of UNESCO to work on different but very complementary areas: youth policies, democracy, media, freedom of expression, education and employment, but also identity and intercultural dialogue. Many parts of UNESCO come together.”
Director of the Policies and Lifelong Learning Division at UNESCO, David Atchoarena, emphasized the role of relevant education and training in order to face future challenges in the region:
“The issue of youth and employment is particularly acute in the MENA region because of the demography structure and the labour markets. By 2030 the population number will grow to be over 200 million, which illustrates the magnitude of the challenge and the need to develop appropriate tools and policies to better guide education, training policies and forecasting methodologies.”
Findings from the Skills Forecasting Synthesis Report
At the seminar’s first session, Robert A. Wilson from the Warwick Institute for Employment Research, presented an overview of the Skills Forecasting Synthesis Report, which builds on the work conducted since 2014 in seven NET-MED Youth countries.
Among many issues, the report covered a critical review of the work led to develop a skills forecasting model in the seven NET-MED Youth beneficiary countries, with a global perspective on best practices across the world. It also highlighted an assessment of key findings, and how this work positions the Mediterranean area as an innovative place in terms of skills anticipation work.
Heba Alatshan, a representative for the youth organization Education for Employment and part of the NET-MED Youth group in Palestine, reflected on the relevance of the forecasting work in the context of her own work. Responsible for providing job placements for Palestinian youth through technical and soft skills training programmes, she analyses private sector needs and designs the training programmes accordingly.
“Our indicator of success is not how many people we train but rather how many people we employ. We have been involved in constructing the macro-level forecasting model so that we can give the most valuable impact to our Palestinian youth. As an organisation revolving around skills assessment, the model helps us in saving a lot of efforts. It can provide guidelines for which direction we should be planning our programmes so that they answer the needs of the labour market.”
Some conclusions from the report showed that skill forecasts could help to identify emerging issues and act as a focus for debate, but that they are also continuous and not an end in itself. Projections should rather be seen as part of a regular and easily accessible flow of information rather than giving instantaneous results.
The NET-MED Youth is a three-year project (2014-2017) that has benefitted 10 countries along the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean Sea, in supporting young women and men to obtain the necessary skills, tools and capacities to share experiences and be active citizens in their societies. The focus areas were on networking and collaboration; youth policies; youth media; and employment. For more information about the project, visit the project website. For more information about UNESCO’s work on Skills for Work and Life, visit the UNESCO webpage.