By Ghada Khalifa, Citizenship and Community Affairs lead, Microsoft Egypt
Working in community affairs in Egypt, particularly in the areas of youth education and job support, has been my passion and privilege for many years. Youth unemployment in Egypt stood at 25% in 2010 and evidence suggests that it has risen in the months since the Revolution. The youth unemployment rate in North Africa as a whole is 27%, according to the ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2012 report, and has been consistently high for two decades. These numbers are worrisome, and they show that my area of work is critical to securing the future prosperity of the region and its young inhabitants. I spend a lot of time with young people in Egypt, many of whom were the driving force behind the Revolution, and I hear the same things over and over – they go through many training programs, but they simply can’t find jobs. The level of frustration and disillusionment among youth here, who have strong ambition and skills and who will ultimately lead the region’s future, is a major concern.
By collaborating with partners and social enterprise organisations to help improve the employability of Egyptian youth, Microsoft is determined to change the situation. This spring, we launched the first Arabic employment resource portal for Egyptian youth – MasrWorks – which offers resources ranging from online career guidance, employability and entrepreneurship training, to specific work experience and job opportunities.
Youth programs from recent years, despite significant investment by various organisations, have failed to deliver sufficient impact on the young community. Research on curricula in Egypt showed that at least ten agencies developed similar programs, but they simply did not reach enough people. MasrWorks, however, is not just another online portal. It takes a comprehensive approach towards Egyptian youth empowerment and employment, so job seekers can make a successful transition into the world of work.
As a national portal, MasrWorks is designed to reach wider audiences with resources tailored to language levels, skill levels and social opportunities in the country. We are working with our public and private sector partners to help youth realize their opportunities and truly fulfil their potential. Just an example – we found that a lot of people end up in careers they aren’t passionate about. So Microsoft provides mentorship resources, something I highly valued myself at early stages of my own career. We also help young people develop business skills, without which they can struggle to find employment.
Since the launch in April there have been over 45,000 page views of the website, and there are currently more than 1,200 active MasrWorks users. New users view and join the site every day and we often get positive feedback from users who are learning they have new strengths in the workplace. I am really proud of the work we have done with MasrWorks. I even submitted a short video about eSkills training programs including MasrWorks into the Microsoft Next competition and I won a prize! Microsoft Next is an internal programme to celebrate innovation within the company, so it’s great to see these important initiatives are really appreciated within Microsoft. After all, MasrWorks is as a great example of how we can support workforce development and use technology to empower young people and help shape the future of the next generation in Egypt. North Africa is poised to re-create its prospects and supporting the ‘future builders’, the young people who will go on to lead businesses and future governments, is vital for laying the best foundations today.