Skills for Life: Improving Employment Outcomes for Youth

On the Sunday, April 6, 2014 (yes I know ages ago) Mrs. Lana Al Sakka, a great Jordanian lady who I had the honor of meeting and receiving this delightful invite from, the lady in question, invited me to blog about the event which I sincerely was humbled to accept. I know Lana must think that I’m the laziest person she’s ever invited in her life. But believe me Lana, this is not the case.

In truth, I felt a bit ashamed and self-conscious after attending this event. I was jobless, a wannabe writer, and all these people accomplished so much for themselves and others. I felt there wasn’t anything for me to add. But now in this September night, I know I was wrong to neglect my blog and event covering views.

I know now, with clarity and eagerness, that this, this is my skill. It might not be much, but you thought it was something. So thank you Lana, I hope you will read this and forgive me being more than 6 months late. Better late than sorry I would say. 2014 isn’t over and I won’t stop blogging and doubt myself now.


Here it goes!


Dear Dana

It was lovely speaking to you just now.

We would be honored if you can join us during the upcoming International Youth Foundation’s conference on the 7th and 8th of April, entitled Skills for Life for blogging about the event as well as IYF’s programs. We would highly appreciate it if you could join us during the conference and blog about the program, results and efforts being made.  If you have any suggestions, please feel free to let us know so we can raise the profile of the social media efforts being made for the conference.   

The event highlights the role of IYF in the youth labor market, where condensed soft skill training is given to underprivileged youth and a real effort to improving employment outcomes for youth.  The conference has a regional connotation as IYF are present in the Middle East and North Africa region, and the conference brings together case studies and lessons learnt from the whole region.

I have attached the schedule of the event for your reference, as well as information about their programs.  Once you confirm your attendance, I will send you a package (soft and hard copies) containing more information on their social media approach which we received from their head office in Baltimore, USA as well your official invitation.

So on 8:30 I got stuck in horrible traffic jam caused by two grumpy men who had a morning accident which made me unbelievably late to the seminar in Hayyat Amman.


As I entered 45 minutes later (maybe even more), frustrated and out of sorts, I knew I was so late, everyone was inside the main room, so as I clicked my heels quicker, I heard someone saying: “Excuse me! May I help you?” I turned around and found myself facing one of my old school friends Aline Sawalha, we hugged and chatted it for a while, while she helped me get my card. I entered into the room and found over 200 people sitting and listening in different positions of concentration, one of them was Lana. I went to her and introduced myself. She was so nice and welcoming and she got me a huge folder filled with information and made sure I was in a good seat.


As I sat down and began recognizing my surroundings, I saw a few of my tweep friends. I introduced myself to the people on my table then I noticed that almost 3/4 of people were on headsets. I took one wondering what it was they were listening to, and I was surprised to hear someone translating the sessions, from English to Arabic and vice versa, depending on the used language. I thought it was fascinating. I turned in my seat and saw two cubicles with two persons busily concentrating on the sessions and translating immediately. What a fabulous job it must be!


Day one of the seminar is titled “Call to Action”. I found it quite interesting that I even took part in the discussions. I mean if I knew how hard it was to find a good job with a good salary in Graphic Design I might’ve chosen something else. But here’s the thing. The things that shape our skills at a young age are our surroundings. Family, school, friends, what we are exposed to (TV, books, manners), what we are demanded to do (homework, a hubby, studying), what we are privileged to do (traveling, taking out of school lessons for a skill), and of course, what we are expected to do (whatever our society and family think is best). How different would my life have been, if I was exposed to more traveling, to higher education, to opportunities to enhance any skill I might have had or even discovered new ones. So different I suppose.


Here is the agenda:

Day 1
Call to Action
Using Life Skills to connect the region’s educational system to market needs

08:30 – 09:00 Registration and Coffee
09:00 – 10:00 Opening Session: Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Awais Sufi [Chief Operating Officer from The International Youth Foundation]
  • Polly Dunford [Deputy Mission Director for Syria related Programs from USAID]
  • H.E. Abdelaadim El Guerrouj [Minster Delegate to the Minister of National Education and Vocational Training from Morocco]
  • H.E. Professor Nidal Katamine [Minster of Labor from Jordan]


10:00 – 11:15 Morning Plenary and Interactive Life Skills Lesson

What current trends are shaping the role of life skills in youth productivity and employ-ability in the region? This session will explore the opportunities, gap areas and the impact of life skills on positive transitions to adulthood, as well as share interesting findings about the current state of play for life skills in the region, including results of a regional mapping effort on life skills training that highlights key areas of needs, and other research findings related to soft skills requirements for entry-level jobs.

  • Prof. Ekhleif Tarawneh, President, University of Jordan
  • Dr. M. Laura Sanchez Puerta, Senior Economist, World Bank
  • Samir Hulileh, CEO, PADICO Holdings
  • Lee Cohen, Deputy Director, Basic Education/Youth Office, USAID
  • Facilitator: Awais Sufi, COO, International Youth Foundation

11:15-11:30 Coffee Break
11:30-12:30 The Power of Experiential Learning

Educators and employers alike are talking about the importance of life skills for employ-ability, but many practitioners have not actually experienced what this looks like in practice. Conference participants will participate in a life skills class and have the opportunity to hone their own skills. The session will be divided into 3 smaller groups to participate in a fun interactive life skills session with experienced trainers from the IYF Jordan Passport to Success® program. This will be followed by small group discussions to reflect on the importance of experiential teaching approaches to transformational life skills.

  • Facilitators:
  • Sarabecka Mullen, Director, IYF Life Skills Programs
  • Mays Al Shakanbeh, IYF Capacity Building Manager/ Senior Trainer

12:30 – 13:15 Youth Visions

Hear directly from inspiring young men and women and their parents about the positive and transformational impact life skills training has made on their development. This interactive round robin discussion with a group of young people who have received life skills training through the Youth for the Future program will focus on the personal, social and emotional skills young disadvantaged Jordanians have acquired to navigate everyday life and make positive decisions about their future. The session will also highlight the role that parents play to support their children as they transition to adulthood. Facilitator: Mays Al Shakanbeh, IYF Capacity Building Manager/ Senior Trainer


13:15 – 14:30 Buffet Lunch

After lunch, participants will break out into smaller group discussions to reflect on the morning’s plenary sessions from the unique perspectives of both Educational Providers and Employers. The breakout groups will then reconvene to engage in a lively debate and develop a Call to Action for a stronger focus on mainstreaming life skills development to connect regional
educational systems to market needs. 


14:30 – 15:45 Breakout Session A: The Role of Educational Providers

What can be done to encourage a stronger focus on life skills programming in MENA’s educational systems? Distinguished experts representing some of the region’s leading educational and vocational training providers will engage participants in an interactive discussion on what is currently being done to promote more life skills in education programs and where the gaps are. The session will also discuss how employers, representing the “other side” of the equation, can help push the education agenda in the right direction. Key topics such as the role of life skills in empowering students, reducing school dropout rates, and increasing self-confidence for students from challenging or disadvantaged environments will also be discussed.

  • Ibrahim Safadi, CEO, Luminus Group
  • Prof. Natheer Abu Obeid, President, German Jordanian University
  • Fouad Chafiqi, Director of Curricula, Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training, Morocco
  • Dr. Maen Qatamin, Founder and President, Knowledge Horizon
  • Haya Shubailat, Program Management Specialist, USAID
  • Facilitators: Rana Al Turk, IYF Jordan Country Director and Nadia Guerch, IYF Morocco Country Director


14:30 – 15:45 Breakout Session B: Understanding the Employer Perspective

Many companies express concern that they are not getting graduates with the skills they need. Why is that—and what should be done about it? Taking the perspective of the employer, the session will explore how education systems can best equip and prepare graduates for entry level jobs, and what role employers can play to support this process. Key topics such as the specific life and soft skills employers are seeking for entry level positions and the link between life skills, productivity and company performance will also be discussed.

  • H.E. Hamada Abu Nijmeh, Secretary General, Ministry of Labour
  • Issam Samara, Managing Director, Al-Asalah (LG Electronics)
  • Mohammad Armouti, Operations Manager, Green Olive Food and Beverage Services, Al Kurdi Group
  • Abdalsallam Qudomi, Assistant HRD & Training Manager, Americana
  • Sahar Othman, Programs and Public Relations Manager, Sharek Youth Forum, Palestine
  • Facilitator: Dr. Mohammad AlMbaid, IYF Palestine Country Director and MENA Regional Director


15:45 – 16:00 Coffee Break
16:00 – 17:00 Call to Action: Aligning Regional Education Systems with Employer Needs

The final panel of the day will reconvene participants from the breakout sessions to collectively share highlights and recommendations and build the platform for a Call for Action that is agreed upon by all. What systems-based approaches can the region’s top educational providers and employers take together to better equip young Arab graduates for today’s employment environment? How can life skills support the stronger entrepreneurial mindset Arab youth need to compete in today’s market, where small- and medium-sized businesses are the engine of economic growth and a increasing source of employment? Reflecting on these critical issues, as well as the regional landscape for life skills highlighted in the morning sessions, participants will be energized and ready for Day 2’s in-depth technical sessions, which will focus on specific areas for action to support MENA’s growing life skills field.

  • H.E. Abdelaâdim El Guerrouj, Minister Delegate to the Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, Morocco
  • Dr. Maher Al-Mahrouq, Director General, Jordan Chamber of Industry
  • H.E. Qais Qatamin, Fund Director, King Abdullah II Fund for Development
  • Prof. Dr. Tariq Al-Azab, Vice President for Technical Education, Al-Balqa’ Applied University
  • William Gallagher, Deputy General Manager, Laureate Vocational Saudi Arabia
  • Facilitator: Bassem Nasir, IYF Regional Program Manager


17:00 – 17:15 Day’s Wrap-up and Explanation of Day 2 Sessions

The first day was overwhelming, I felt my head about to explode from all the discussions, ideas, arguments, theories, suggestions, stories of both success and failure and meeting a 100 new people, my bag was filled with new business cards with no possible business perspective. I did learn so much about the market’s needs, about the educational challenges and system, about the real effort those people put so we can have a proper education and yet I felt out of place and sorts. I was one of those hundreds looking for a job to skills that I have that many might not possess but they have the job because they are luckier, wealthier or better connected. Which brings to the table this question, what other skills should I learn to land me a job that pays well?


Check the next post for day 2 of the seminar! x


One thought on “Skills for Life: Improving Employment Outcomes for Youth

  1. Pingback: Skills for Life Day II | Dana's Sanctuary

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