BEIRUT—Alarmed by the massive exodus of talented young people, Lebanon’s Antonine University has partnered with the Finnish telecom giant Nokia and the locally based data communication supplier Multilane to provide training and job opportunities for its engineering graduates at home.
The university recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Nokia and Multilane joining efforts to fight the brain drain, said Chadi Abou Jaoude, dean of the university’s Faculty of Engineering.
The agreement will offer some of Lebanon’s brightest young people an experience that will help them fulfil their aspirations while staying in their home country, he said.
Fourth- and fifth-year engineering students in telecommunications, systems and networks will begin to benefit from the agreement at the start of the next academic year in September.
“Our students will start training with Nokia at Multilane’s technology park in Lebanon from the fourth year,” Abou Jaoude said. “They will have a set of seminars, workshops and courses which they would complete in the middle of the final fifth year. After they graduate, selected students will be offered an internship with Nokia for six months and eventually a job.”
Under the agreement Nokia will pay part of the tuition of top fifth-year students, Abou Jaoude said. This will help the students “focus more on their studies instead of worrying about how to secure their university fees in the present economic and financial crisis,” he said.
Keeping Curricula Up to Date
“Our goal is to create job opportunities in Lebanon for fresh graduates to stop the exodus of talent. We don’t want our students to go abroad. We want them to stay in Lebanon and contribute to the national economy.”Chadi Abou Jaoude, dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Antonine University
Antonine University’s partnership with Nokia will also provide technology exchanges. The university’s professors will undertake research with Nokia experts to stay up to date with the latest communications technology, which they can then integrate into the curriculum.
“In the next phase we will be hosting a Nokia Lab, the first such lab in the country, which will boost studies and research at the university,” Abou Jaoude said.
“Our goal is to create job opportunities in Lebanon for fresh graduates to stop the exodus of talent. We don’t want our students to go abroad. We want them to stay in Lebanon and contribute to the national economy.”
Abou Jaoude said he believed students “are more motivated and enthusiastic about their studies as they now have higher expectations of getting a job as soon as they graduate. They feel more secure. They just have to focus on their studies and do well in order to succeed. They know that having a Nokia experience on their CV will open opportunities for them in top companies anywhere in the world.”
Some 60 students from Antonine University graduate annually in telecommunication engineering fields. Nokia had noticed Antonine University graduate students who continued their higher studies in France for their excellence. It raised the telecom giant’s interest in collaborating with the university.
Opening Doors for Students
Students expressed delight at the collaboration with Nokia and Multilane, which they view as the precursor of a better professional future.
“It is a major push that will provide us with the training and equipment we need to succeed,” said Elie Youssef, a fifth-year student in telecommunications and networks. “This will open doors for us to advance, especially with an international giant like Nokia.”
Like many Lebanese young people, Youssef, who is 22, was planning to seek a job abroad once he had his diploma.
“Definitely, being able to get a job with Nokia in Lebanon will weaken my appetite to immigrate. The knowledge and professionalism that we seek abroad, we can now access at home.”Elie Youssef A fifth-year student in telecommunications and networks
“Definitely, being able to get a job with Nokia in Lebanon will weaken my appetite to immigrate,” he said. “The knowledge and professionalism that we seek abroad, we can now access at home.”
Lea Saifi, a fifth-year student in systems and networks, said “the agreement is crucial for the university but especially for engineering students.”
“The theoretical and practical knowledge that we get at university is insufficient,” she said. “We need professional experience to be able to enter the job market. This agreement will help us get such experience with an important company like Nokia.”
Saifi, who is 21, is eager to get an internship with Nokia. “I will work hard for that,” she said. “Having experience with Nokia will look great on my CV, it will be a plus for me and help me in my future career.”
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“Many young people aspire to find a job abroad under the prevailing economic crisis to be able to build a future and support their parents, but I prefer to stay in Lebanon and contribute to its economic recovery,” she said.
Other Partnership Agreements
Abou Jaoude said that a central target of the university’s strategy is to bridge the gap between academia and the market.
“We are seeking out big companies to bridge that gap,” he said. “For instance, we have partnership agreements with Amazon and Oracle to establish an academy on campus. We teach our students the courses that we get from these big companies and integrate them in our curriculum. When they graduate, our students are certified and ready to enter the job market.”
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