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Career Development Centres at Egyptian Universities Focus on Skills the Market Needs

The skills needed for future jobs are constantly changing. Career development centres at Egypt’s public universities are trying to make sure graduates are prepared.

The World Economic Forum has estimated that 85 million jobs may be displaced by 2025, as machines and algorithms take over more jobs that people do now, but 97 million new jobs are likely to emerge in fields that will require new skills.

In Egypt, which had an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent last year, according to official statistics, the University Centres for Career Development project at public universities is part of the frontline in the battle to ensure students have the right skills to land a good job after they leave university.

Maha Fakhry, who is head of the project, spoke to Al-Fanar Media about its work.

Career Planning

Fakhry said there was a lack of career planning for university students in Egypt. Her organisation aims to fill that gap.

“We offer students training packages and employment skills, in accordance with the skills required in the labour market,” Fakhry said. “These skills vary over time, so we are developing students’ programmes through experiential learning, encouraging them to think, identify their skills and the skills the market needs.”

“We offer students training packages and employment skills, in accordance with the skills required in the labour market. These skills vary over time, so we are developing students’ programmes through experiential learning, encouraging them to think, identify their skills and the skills the market needs.”

Maha Fakhry, Head of University Centres for Career Development, Egypt.

The project, officially launched in 2017, began as a five-year experiment at Suez Canal University and Ain Shams University, with the aim of establishing 30 sustainable centres in 23 Egyptian public universities by 2025.

By this summer 18 centres had been established in 11 universities, with four more centres to be opened in another four universities over the next few months.

Fakhry wants to make the centres permanent. “Universities know the importance of these centres for students, the community and the labour market,” she said.

The centres that have opened so far are all operating efficiently and sustainably, she said.

She added that the centres reinforce the loyalty and sense of belonging students feel for their universities, because the university is supporting s them and helping them to develop their skills, communicate with the labour market, and get external training opportunities.

Connecting Students and Employers

Activities the project has carried out include setting up a digital platform during the Covid-19 pandemic where students could learn about jobs at specific companies and the skills needed to do those jobs. Fifty-six Egyptian companies, plus some foreign ones, participated, Fakhry said.

The project also holds round tables, job fairs, and other events with private-sector employers. Some 43,000 students have participated in these sessions during the past two years, according to the project’s data.

Nearly 275,000 students have benefited from the career development centres, 60 percent of them young women, Fakhry said. Centres in partner universities have also announced more than 23,500 job and training opportunities for university students and graduates.

“In our work, programmes and the selection of trainers, we focus on gender equality, including people with disabilities, and entrepreneurship, especially in the governorates,” Fakhry said. “We also offer students lectures in English, digital marketing, and human resources management, after they have learnt about the special needs of the students who are participating.”

“Not all students want to leave their governorates. For those who want to, we study their chosen destination and its labour market needs, and then develop a clear plan so the student can determine the possibility of getting a job or a specific scholarship, how to search for that job, and job fairs and forums they can attend.”

Maha Fakhry  

The project also offers online training and career development services. More than 177,700 students have used those services through centres at universities in 10 governorates, the project’s statistics show.

Career Coaching and Market Studies

Fakhri believes in the importance of career coaching, which is the main task of the centres.

“Not all students want to leave their governorates,” she said. “For those who want to, we study their chosen destination and its labour market needs, and then develop a clear plan so the student can determine the possibility of getting a job or a specific scholarship, how to search for that job, and job fairs and forums they can attend.”

Labour market studies are an important part of the centres’ work. “We organise round tables with representatives and businessmen in the governorates,” Fakhry said. “Each university listens to the skills employers need and that university graduates lack so they can work on providing students with them before graduation.”

She said we face a global crisis if graduates fail to find good job opportunities, and employers are talking about not finding graduates with the required skills. This is what the career development centres are working to correct. While acknowledging the difficulty of developing the right curricula, Fakhry says that it can be achieved through a dialogue between employers and universities.

Other studies include conduct employability surveys, which member universities conduct to identify local labour market conditions. Fakhry said the surveys try to find out what job opportunities graduates have, whether their chosen majors help, and whether those who got jobs they were ready for the jobs or needed to acquire additional skills.

The project also conducts follow-up surveys of graduates to learn about their experiences, needs and opinions.

Hopes of Reaching Younger Students

The project targets third- and fourth-year undergraduate students, and includes first and second-year students, Fakhry said. She hopes that the project will also target high school students because the earlier someone can understand the concept, the sooner the project can help.

“The most important skills required in the labour market are flexibility, adaptability, agility, communication, technology, continuous learning and development, leadership, motivation, critical thinking, building and developing skills.”

Maha Fakhry  

But high school students choices of universities and majors depend in large part on their exit exam results, and they often do not know what they want to study.

“We were all like them,” Fakhry said. “No one asked us what we wanted or how we could achieve it. How could we get to know our interests and dreams? This often could not be discovered even in private schools.”

Fakhry said university students must remember that they can always change their career path in line with interests and skills they might not have known when they graduated from high school. These concerns confirm the importance of career education at an early stage, she said. Some schools are becoming aware of this, but initiatives so far are few and insufficient.

Asked what the main skills the labour market required are, Fakhry replied: “The most important skills are flexibility, adaptability, agility, communication, technology, continuous learning and development, leadership, motivation, critical thinking, building and developing skills.”

All these skills have become essential in our world today, while the importance of language and computer skills are self-evident, she said.

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The American University in Cairo is running the project, which has a budget of $34 million and is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in coordination with the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the private sector.

The project operates in nearly 20 governorates: Alexandria, Aswan, Assiut, Beni Suef, Cairo, Dakahlia, Fayoum, Gharbia, Giza, Kafr El-Sheikh, Luxor, Menoufia, Minya, North Sinai, Port Said, Sharqia, Sohag, and Suez.

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