A golden 'opportunity': New program preps youth for job market

Safaa Abdoun
7 Min Read

CAIRO: By next week, Abeer Ismail will have completed a comprehensive sales and marketing course at only 20 years old, thanks to a new employability initiative targeting socially and economically marginalized youth.

Forsa, which is Arabic for “opportunity, was launched by Plan Egypt in collaboration with the Indian CAP Foundation, and caters to women and men aged 16-28 with low academic attainments.

The program started receiving students last August with the first 100 students scheduled to graduate next week.

The Employability Training Center is currently located in Aboul Soud Community Development Association in Old Cairo but within the next two months two more centers will open. The objective is to have 15 centers over the next three years in Cairo and Alexandria and to reach more than 7,000 students.

There are four rounds of the three-month program every year, each of which will include 100 students.

“In Egypt the traditional vocational training is mainly in plumbing, electricity, factory working . etc, but there were never opportunities in the services [sector] so we are mainly concentrating on sales and marketing and hotel management services, explained K. Bharadwaja Phani Kumar, advisor of the Youth Employability Skills Development Program.

This employability program has been implemented in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam. “It has been very successful in these countries so we decided to import the model to Egypt, said Virginia Saiz Gomis, sponsorship and grants manager at Plan.

The first step of the program involved students from Helwan University and the American University in Cairo working together on a market research project. “They went to different business sectors companies, even to households, explained Gomis.

Before joining the program, applicants take an ‘Interest Inventory Test’ which determines their strengths and the appropriate field for them.

Seventy-five percent of the program’s students are school dropouts while the remaining 25 percent have degrees but are looking for job opportunities.

“Dropouts are accepted right away, said Kumar, “also the size of the family is considered, the higher the number of family members, the better chances the person has of being accepted into the program, he added.

The role of the private business sector is a vital part of the Forsa program. “It’s not just an NGO working in a poor area, they also support by giving lectures teach us the skills needed in the market, they also offer jobs for the students, explained Gomis.

There are three specializations in Forsa’s first round; information technology, sales and hotel management.

English, computer and life skills classes are mandatory for all three specializations. The courses are tailored to prepare students for the business world; for example, in the English class they are taught how to answer a phone call, report to one’s boss and write a memo.

A group of highly qualified Egyptian teachers give the lectures as per the set curriculum of the CAP Foundation. “They get to learn all about a hotel’s administration and a background of everything inside like with food and beverages, how they are served and how to sell it to the customer, how to make a name for the place they’re in, different cuisines and their famous dishes and their recipes, explained Yasser Mohamed, the hotel management course teacher.

While the program does not guarantee a job, it secures a job interview. Students in the hotel management course are getting interviews at Triumph Hotel, the Four Seasons Nile Plaza and Grand Hyatt.

Ismail is one of the many success stories that came out of the Forsa program. She joined the adults’ literacy classes until she was able to enroll in school. However, she knew there was a lot more to learn outside the classroom.

“When I first joined the [Forsa] program I didn’t know how to express myself, the teachers realized that so they worked with me on it, step by step they encouraged me to give my opinion in front of my classmates, she recalled, adding that she can now get in front of class and speak confidently.

“I came here to learn English but then I joined the sales and marketing course and through the different activities I learned a lot about myself, said Ismail.

“They make you think outside the box. I’ve learned how to seek knowledge, now when I hear about, for example, a lecture in Helwan University I would go, and I’ve also learned that anything through effort, cooperation and team work can be done, she said.

Plan has been in Egypt since 1981, under the supervision of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, working with more than 40 community development associations nationwide in Cairo, Giza, Qaliubiya, Alexandria, Assiut and Beheira. They are mainly focused on education, child rights, health, potable water, basic sanitation, children birth registration, support for food production and income generation.

Forsa comes as a part of Plan’s commitment to the development of the young Egyptian generation. “Plan Egypt has made a major commitment to positively contribute to the alleviation of some of the issues and challenges that young Egyptians face. Our collaboration with the Indian CAP Foundation, as well as other non-governmental agencies and private sector organizations, adds a new dimension to our activities and to this program in particular, said Edward McAbbey, country director of Plan Egypt in a press statement.

“The Forsa program aims at eradicating poverty and the vulnerability of the disadvantaged youth through their assimilation into the competitive job market. The program helps participants acquire the required social skills in an environment of learning and mentoring that is responsive to each individual’s emotional and developmental needs, he added.

Plan works at improving the quality of life of underprivileged children in developing countries, making them realize their full potential.

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