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Tackling High Unemployment Among Palestinian Graduates

By Dima Abumaria | The Media Line

October 8, 2017

Palestinian students pose with their diploma during their graduation ceremony at the end of the academic year on May 20, 2016 at Birzeit University. (Photo: ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images
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Birzeit University’s New Business Hub Hopes to Find a Solution

A new EU-funded Business Hub (B-Hub)—an innovative program that provides an environment for talented students and small businesses—has recently been implemented at Birzeit University near Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The enterprise matches student creativity and innovation with small businesses to provide solutions. B-Hub is managed jointly by Birzeit University’s (BZU) Center for Continuing Education and the Business and Economics Faculty. The hub aims to empower local businesses and improve the employability of university students and graduates by finding the workplace that best matches their skills.

During an opening ceremony for B-Hub in early October, two memorandums of understanding were signed. Firstly, between BZU and Bank of Palestine, and secondly, between B-Hub and the American Foundation for a vibrant Palestinian economy (AVPE.) The goal of the MOUs is to cooperate in supporting companies and providing them with expertise and also help graduates and entrepreneurs to find opportunities.

“What makes the B-Hub special is its new and unique approach to developing the capabilities and skills required by employers in local small businesses, by matching students and their skills with the needs of existing projects,” Assim Khalil, BZU Vice President of Communal Affairs, declared at the ceremony. He explained further to The Media Line that, “Our students will be involved in all disciplines under the direct supervision of the university’s specialists and professors.”

According to Khalil, the hub will serve university students (potential entrepreneurs in the near future), as well as owners of existing companies, regardless of size, sector, or geographical location in the West Bank (and would include east Jerusalem).

Speaking to The Media Line, Omar Omran, an economic instructor at BZU stated that the hub “will help students and their families establish and operate sustainable businesses that are green and socially oriented.

“It would also enhance the sustainability of existing MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and help informal businesses transfer to the formal sector,” he elaborated. At the same time it aims to promote Palestinian-made products and helps them to become more competitive.

The European Union’s Director of International Cooperation, Alessandra Fiese, expressed the EU’s satisfaction with its cooperative venture with BZU via the hub, which she said would contribute to the development of the PA business sector and provide solutions and services for local small enterprises.

“This work, cooperation and joint coordination comes in order to make Palestine a model country in the fields of entrepreneurship, especially as it has a large number of innovators and companies capable of carrying this out,” she asserted.

Mohammed Abuhashem, 26, a former BZU economic student stressed the dire need for such a hub in the PA. He said that one of the most difficult obstacles he faced after graduating was that he did not have enough practical experience to find a job. “Most universities require a year’s work experience as an intern during studying. This not sufficient,” he contended to The Media Line. “If I had had better experience in an actual work-place—I would have had a better start in the market.

“I had to travel abroad to gain experience. I believe the hub will enable students to face the market in a stronger position.”

One third of Palestinian society is composed of high-school and university students. Seventy percent of graduates are unemployed because of the discrepancy between the needs of the local market and the capabilities of the new graduates. Private companies do not have the capacity to solve the problem. The hope is that the B-Hub might be a way of bridging the gap and providing creative solutions.

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