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Training programs offer hope to Jordan's unemployed youth

From John Defterios, CNN
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Training programs are aiming to bring more young Jordanians into workforce
  • Youth unemployment in Jordan is amongst highest in the world
  • Country has worked with International Labour Organization to address issue

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(CNN) -- In a tiny car repair shop in the Jordanian capital of Amman, one can encounter the latest efforts to solve the country's sky high youth unemployment rate.

It's here that 23-year-old Khaleel Anwar can now fix his sights on a career after a year-long apprenticeship program.

"I learned so many things such as how to monitor a car using an electronic device, also how to fill gas the proper way using this device," Anwar said.

After years of debate on how to lift up the most vulnerable, training programs are targeting the informal economy and small businesses that need qualified workers.

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This is a regional challenge. Youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa is running above 27%, the highest in the world.

Jordan's is slightly above that average and the government has allocated ample resources to try and reverse this trend.

According to the World Bank, this equates to some 10% of GDP for the last two decades. But the challenge is to close the gap between what happens here in the classroom and what is needed by industry.

This is where Yasser Ali of the International Labour Organization (ILO) comes into the picture.

For their auto academy pilot program, the ILO brought together trade unions and private sector companies to see what is needed in the labor market.

"Thinking like this can make a step forward in order to address youth unemployment but it needs involvement of all partners in this process," Ali said.

And the early results are promising. Trainer and mentor, Youssef Rahal, said he's taught nearly 200 students with a placement rate of 89%.

"There is a drastic change in the students," Rahal said. "They come to us with no skills; they are either drop outs or only have high school degrees, they are 17, 18, 19, 20-year-olds."

Countrywide endeavor

It's not just in the inner cities that are the focus of the training programs.

In the rural Bedouin area of Mafraq two hours drive from Amman, there is ground breaking work taking place inside a local community center.

Up to 50 women, many who have not held jobs before, are being trained to work in a textile factory that is being built nearby.

"There is strong demand because it's a ladies environment and everything is available for us," said Tahani Salama, a worker in the factory. "The most important is transportation that is guaranteed."

Her colleague Ruwaida Thamri agrees. "It has helped me to meet new people. I now know how to communicate with my manager and my colleagues."

According to the local tribal leader, Nimer Al Fawwaz, such progress has only been made possible by having a dialogue with parents to get support for women to enter the workforce -- which represents a cultural breakthrough in itself.

"We want more courses and more attention to it and focus on more production companies within this area," Al Fawwaz said.

Call it a small success story for a big problem plaguing the region.

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