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The jobs challenge

Feb 04,2015 - Last updated at Feb 04,2015

In the charming Jordanian film “Captain Abu Raed”, a young boy from east Amman tells his friends that people like him do not get good jobs. In the end, he becomes a commercial pilot with Royal Jordanian.

The point is that getting a job should not depend on where one is from or what one’s connections are.

If one is smart and works hard, one can achieve one’s ambition.

This is true all over the world, not just in Jordan.

This point was illustrated in Davos by the UN goodwill ambassador — and former Harry Potter actress — Emma Watson.

Asked on Twitter for advice by a girl whose father was telling her she should not become an engineer, her answer was simple and direct: “Become an engineer.”

Young people need to break out from an attitude that typecasts them into jobs that are deemed “acceptable” or “prestigious”.

An example of damaging attitudes is the so-called “culture of shame”, which makes people think that washing dishes or cleaning streets is somehow dishonourable.

Such attitude is old fashioned and increasingly counter-productive.

Surely a person achieves honour and dignity by putting food on his or her family’s table?

Far better to be employed — whatever the job — than to sit at home with a master’s degree that no employer is interested in.

After all, finding a job these days is not easy, especially a first job.

The IMF says that 31 per cent of the 15-24-year-old bracket in Jordan are unemployed, one of the highest rates in the world.

Almost a quarter of male graduates and three-quarters of female graduates are without jobs. This is a tremendous waste of talent.

What can be done?

First, countries need to assess and analyse where the potential for job creation lie.

The motor for growth anywhere is the private sector. Only it can invest in new, productive jobs.

Next, what are those businesses looking for?

Do they want more bachelor’s degrees in humanities? Or are they looking for scientists? Or, as is increasingly the case in Europe, is the subject a person studied not the decisive criterion?

Private sector employers in Jordan regularly tell me that the key factor in employing a person is not the subject of their degree. What they want is skills: underlying abilities like leadership, customer awareness, team building, critical thinking, decision making and communications.

If a person can demonstrate these skills, a company can give them the knowledge they need.

This fact is behind the British embassy’s support in Jordan for the Business Development Centre’s “Maharat” programme, designed to take young graduates and supplement their degree with core skills.

The results of this programme are impressive: In the last two years, it has helped 3,142 young people into jobs. And that is not only in Amman. The programme is also run in Irbid, Karak, Tafileh and soon in Maan.

It is part of the UK’s £220 million support for Jordan in the last three years.

It is also important for young people to look ahead at where future jobs might be available. Where are their country’s centres of strength where future investment might open up new opportunities?

One area of growth in many parts of the world is tourism.

Around the world, it employs almost 100 million people. As communities get richer and air travel gets cheaper, this number is bound to grow.

In the UK, tourism generates about £115 billion each year and supports over 2.6 million jobs.

In the next few years, investment by the private sector and funding from government for major campaigns is expected to attract another 4.6 million visitors, creating another 60,000 jobs.

No doubt the young boy in “Captain Abu Raed” found that getting a job was not easy.

The key for young people facing the jobs challenge is to take the opportunities they are offered but not get stuck. Further and better opportunities will follow.

The writer is British ambassador to Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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