MAFRAQ, ZARQA - Jordan (ILO News) – Mohammad Gigiu has faced overwhelming obstacles, countless changes and the traumatic reality of displacement in his life. A former sports teacher, the 35-year-old left his native Syria during its 11-year-long war and found sanctuary in neighbouring Jordan.
A safety net of friends were already living in Jordan, proving themselves crucial in helping him take a rest from his journey, overcome the resettlement shock, and eventually find a new job.
“Friends of mine here (in Jordan) were working in the gypsum board decoration business. Despite everything I had been through, I saw it as a new opportunity,” Gigiu says during a break from his shift on a construction site in northern Jordan. “I immediately loved this job and I learnt it. Five years ago, I was even granted a license as a semi-skilled worker for this profession.”
But Gigiu wasn’t satisfied yet, being eager to push his limits further and earn new skills to seek new job opportunities both in Jordan and abroad. But he he did not know how to go about achieving these aspirations.
A year ago, while checking his Facebook account, he unexpectedly came accross an advertisement for a programme geared toward the recognition of prior learning (RPL). The project was funded by the PROSPECTS Programme, a global partnership, supported by the Government of the Netherlands.
“I immediately connected with the engineer responsible for this programme and joined it,” he says. “Since then, I’ve received a series of visits (from the assessors) who have been giving us (workers) useful advice while at work.”
The RPL project is focused on making working skills among Jordanian and Syrian workers more relevant and giving people the opportunity to have their prior training and experiences recognized through a coaching series at workplaces, conducted by certified assessors, and a final exam administered by the Jordan Technical and Vocational Skills Development Commission (TVSDC).
Workers receive their official occupational license upon passing this test.
By offering the chance to obtain qualifications, RPL is key for promoting social inclusion among those who do not complete their schooling and retrenched workers, addressing skills shortages and workers’ adaptability, and fostering access to higher education and decent jobs, thus contributing to the transition from the informal to the formal economy at the local level.
Workers and employers alike benefit from correcting previous behaviours and applying Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) roles and instructions through the RPL programme — in turn ensuring market-relevant skills.
“We carried out eight direct visits to our technicians in the different workplaces during the programme,” Abdelrahman Shawabkeh, an Education Assessor with implementing partner Luminus Education, says during one of his supervisory sessions. “We assess their work ethics and their technical skills, eventually facilitating their acquisition of occupational licences.”
Luminus Education has been offering short courses, diploma programmes, and professional training for organizations and individuals in Jordan for the past 30 years.
Since joining forces in 2021, ILO’s PROSPECTS and Luminus have enrolled around 1,000 workers in the RPL project. Almost 30 per cent of them are Syrian workers with refugee status.
Beneficiaries are trained and certified in almost 30 different types of construction professions, spanning electrical work, painting and decorating, plumbing, scaffolding, and wall and floor work.
So far, over half of the participants have already passed their final exams and received their certifications.
One of them is Jordanian Maryam Motlaq, a 48-year old mother of two.
“I’ve been a plumber for the past seven years and I’ve attended trainings for that. But I’ve faced many challenges and, thank goodness, have overcome them during this period,” Motlaq tells ILO PROSPECTS, while receiving assessment from Education Assessor Shawabkeh in her native city of Zarqa, 22km northeast of the capital Amman.
In the city’s relatively conservative society, Motlaq has been an exception since the start of her career path, as many women in her community do not work outside the home.
“The majority of the problems came from the local community, as I was trying to change the point of view of the people, who are not used to deal with a woman in this profession, as this is not traditional (for women) and mostly considered an occupation for men, and I’ve achieved this goal,” she says.
“I hope to open a construction company in the future, where I will be able to obtain work contracts both as a plumber and an electrician. I will encourage women to work in any jobs they want and overcome obstacles, eventually proving themselves in society,” she says.
Meanwhile, back in Mohammad Gigiu’s construction site, his work and its assessment continues. Pausing for a short moment, Gigiu sits outside the half-built stairs that lead to the new house he's decorating.
“I am dreaming big,” he says. “Upon completing the programme, I will receive an occupational license as a skilled-level worker, and this certificate will be useful for jobs both in Jordan and outside the country. Who knows where this will take me and what opportunities it will bring me? The options are limitless.”
PROSPECTS is a strategic four-year global partnership that supports host communities and displaced populations in eight countries across East and North Africa and the Arab States. It brings together the Government of the Netherlands, ILO, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank, UNHCR and UNICEF and focuses on three key pillars: education, employment and protection.