The Palestinian population is very young, with a third of the population between the ages of 15 and 29. With this population growing rapidly, there is an increasing level of stress on the country’s infrastructure and social services due to a very high youth unemployment rate. Currently, youth unemployment lies at 40%, increasing to 55% for university graduates, and increasing even higher to 60% for women as well as for youth in Gaza (GIZ, 2021).
The fact that development and opportunities for youth in Palestine also depend on the political situation as well as whether they can move freely, even within their own country, presents a graver challenge to youth development than elsewhere in the world. Limited freedom of movement has traditionally resulted in limited opportunities thereby fuelling unequal economic growth between Palestine and the rest of the world, as well as within Palestine, contributing towards a lack of social cohesion.
Furthermore, even though Palestine has a high literacy rate and a high tertiary education level among its population, the United Nations Development Programme emphasized in their 2017 report the especially large skills gap between the university education that students receive and the demands of local and international labor markets (UNDP, 2017: 13). This again points to the need for proper education that is relevant to market needs and includes practical training, as well as access to mentors and global networks that will help to absorb the growing workforce (UNDP, 2017: 18).
Redressing Youth Unemployment in Palestine
Although the occupation constrains the movement of Palestinians, we must search for solutions to reduce its impact on the opportunities available to Palestinians and their chances for socioeconomic prosperity. The digital economy presents such an opportunity.
The Talent Acceleration Platform (TAP), a Dutch-Palestinian company, is investing in a tech ecosystem in the region by offering programs in web development, business-to-business technology sales, as well as digital marketing – thereby aligning with the demands of Industrial 4.0 and Industrial 5.0. According to the UNDP, demand-driven upskilling is the key to driving down unemployment and this is exactly what TAP is doing with its specialized training programs (UNDP, 2017: 38).
The programs teach students all the technical skills needed for these in-demand digital roles while at the same time empowering them with soft skills through an integrated Power Skills curriculum. This curriculum builds students’ communication and personal branding skills, as well as their confidence, growth mindsets, entrepreneurship mentalities, and overall job-readiness. Coupled with an internship period to put the acquired knowledge into practice, as well as mentorship for career guidance, support, and motivation; TAP’s programs represent the quality education that is currently lacking at universities to bridge the skills gap between education and employment.
As an innovative tech company on the forefront of the digital economy, all of TAP’s training takes place online. This ensures that the physical barriers propped up by the occupation to constrain the movement of Palestinians does not hinder access to the programs nor their potential for successful and vibrant futures. In fact, access to the programs is further supported by income sharing agreements (ISA) that make it possible for Palestinian youth to join the programs for free and only pay for the cost of training once they have landed jobs and are earning over a certain threshold.
Income sharing agreements are a great way for impact companies and social entrepreneurs to make investments in the futures of youth across the world. Not only do they ensure full access to the programs regardless of the socioeconomic backgrounds of students, but they also drive mutual collaboration between companies and students. It double-motivates companies to provide the best demand-driven education and to effectively partner graduates with hiring companies, while enabling the longevity of the company.
Over the last year, the Talent Acceleration Platform has already provided over one hundred students with quality education, training and internships in web development and business-to-business tech sales and has a placement rate of 80% for connecting TAP graduates to in-demand jobs at international companies. TAP’s mission for 2023 is to train a further 200 youth for finding remote jobs in Palestine, recognizing that a targeted investment in education truly is the most sustainable path to upward socioeconomic mobility and empowerment for youth. At the same time, TAP continues to shine a light on the incredible talent that is readily available in Palestine, working to ensure the integration of the growing Palestinian labor force into the local and international markets.