Beirut, April 7, 2022 – The Beirut Digital District (BDD) and the World Bank officially launched today Skilling Up Lebanon, a groundbreaking program that aims to provide around 9,500 young women and men in Lebanon over a three-year period with the digital skills needed to prepare them for the local, regional and global jobs of the future. The program also aims to attract digital technology players to invest in the region.
The launch event gathered representatives from the international community, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, representatives from the private and digital sectors, civil society, as well as youth from across the country. Private companies attending the event made pledges about the number and scope of work opportunities they plan to offer over the next 12 to 24 months and committed to interview candidates from the pool of trainees from the program.
Technologies have an impact on how firms operate, creating new business models and expanding job opportunities. High-demand skill sets today did not even exist five years ago. Studies suggest that the number of digital jobs will continue to rise exponentially over the next few years. In addition, COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated and showcased the importance of digitalization and digital transformation. Simply put, workers cannot afford to remain un-digitized.
In Lebanon, the workforce is digitally ill-equipped. The Lebanese education system is lagging behind in adapting to the needs of today’s fast-paced world and does not focus enough on market-relevant digital skills. As a result, students lack focus on experiential learning, interdisciplinary approaches, emotional intelligence, and tech skills- all of which are greatly needed for today’s job market.
“The Skilling Up Lebanon initiative is about equipping the youth of today and tomorrow with the right skills sets to thrive in an ever-growing digital economy”, said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Mashreq Director. “Without the right skills, Lebanon may not benefit from the opportunities disruptive technologies and digital firms have to offer, and the Lebanese workforce will find itself lagging behind its neighbors and counterparts.”
The program is part of a regional World Bank Group initiative, Skilling Up Mashreq, which aims to facilitate the upskilling of young women and men in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon with market-relevant digital technology skills by attracting key global tech players to invest in the region.
Skilling Up Lebanon is a product of a partnership between Beirut Digital District’s newly unveiled education arm, Forward MENA, and the World Bank, and aims to establish private sector-led digital skills program with the objective to become self-financed in the medium to short term.
“Today, more than ever, investing in education is critical to safeguard Lebanon’s future,” said Mohamad Rabah, Forward MENA president. “This is why we launched Forward MENA, an incubator of educational programs that aims to develop the skillset of youth from all backgrounds to fulfill the digital and creative jobs of today and tomorrow. We look forward to our continued partnership with the World Bank to support the Lebanese youth and we look forward to collaborate with other partners to steer forward this initiative.”
Skilling Up Lebanon builds on the success of several pilot projects revolving around digital coding and digital skills certification and which also brought together BDD, the World Bank and content providers. The project will start with an awareness raising campaign targeting students on the changes happening in the job market of the future and new opportunities in digital and creative sectors, while also implementing an internship program. In parallel, the BDD will work closely with major employers in Lebanon, and in the region, to identify gaps in digital skills, based on which a series of micro-credential trainings linked to industry certification will be developed to fill those gaps, enabling young Lebanese to find better employment opportunities.
The Skilling Up Lebanon initiative is co-funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the PROSPECTS Program and by the Lebanon Syrian Crisis Trust Fund (LSCTF).
PROSPECTS is a global partnership that aims to improve the access of host communities and forcibly displaced people to education, social protection and decent work. Spearheaded by the Government of the Netherlands, it brings together the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank to help transform the way in which governments and other stakeholders, including the private sector, respond to forced displacement crises.”
The Lebanon Syrian Crisis Trust Fund (LSCTF) is a multi-donor trust fund established in 2014 by the World Bank to mobilize grant funding to help mitigate the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanese host communities. As Lebanon reels under the impact of severe crises, including the ongoing financial and economic crisis, the LSCTF has allocated funds to support the extreme poor and vulnerable as well as the youth. To date, the LSCTF has received contributions from Finland, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and the World Bank-managed State and Peace Building Fund.