Our impact, Their voices

PROSPECTS Partnership joins efforts to increase employability and job opportunities in northern Lebanon

A programme carried out by the ILO in collaboration with the UNHCR and implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), has helped hundreds of Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees to hone their skills and find jobs amid the country’s multi-level crisis.

Feature | 29 May 2023

AKKAR, Lebanon – Mohammad Al Jasim, 28, comes from the outskirts of the Syrian city of Homs. He moved to Lebanon in 2014, when the war in his country made it too dangerous for him to stay, joining his family who had already fled a year earlier.

Beginning all over again in a new country was hard. Al Jasim was just 19 years old at the time and life looked very different from what he knew back in Syria. Looking for jobs to make ends meet seemed an overwhelming task.

“I used to go to job interviews, like visiting carpenter workshops, and the first question they would ask was whether I had certain job skills. My answer would be: “No,” says Al Jasim. “They would then tell me to return the next day, but then no work would be fit for me as I lacked the basic skills and experience.”

Through word-of-mouth recommendations within the Syrian refugee community in northern Lebanon, Al Jasim heard about a training programme called “Integrating Career Guidance and Employment Services within Community Development Centres in Akkar and North Lebanon” carried out by the ILO in collaboration with UNHCR and implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

“I joined the training course to hone my technical skills in the construction sector and attended a three-month practical training course with a local carpenter in a construction company,” says Al Jasim. “I go to work with confidence now. Why? Because I learned. I have knowledge. Both my family and I have benefitted from the training. There are many people like me who are still unemployed. They would also benefit a lot from such training programmes if they could join them.

I go to work with confidence now. Why? Because I learned. I have knowledge. Both my family and I have benefitted from the training. There are many people like me who are still unemployed. They would also benefit a lot from such training programmes if they could join them.

Al Jasim, a carpenter work trainee.
With support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the agencies work together across the country’s Community Development Centres (CDCs) — public spaces where both Lebanese and refugees can learn, communicate, share experiences and access specific medical and psychological care when needed. The Partnership focuses on enhancing employability and employment services within the framework of the PROSPECTS programme.

Through this multi-agency collaboration, the ILO has introduced career development and employment services reaching members of both the refugee and host communities in Lebanon’s north.

“We targeted more than 600 Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugee women and men over more than one and a half years of collaboration,” says Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Advisor for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “With our partners, we helped make the job market more accessible for them through referral to skills training and job opportunities.”

Six Hundred Thirty Lebanese and Syrian refugees received career counselling as a result of the partnership, and another 560 attended sessions on life skills and decent work. Meanwhile, 440 attendees received soft-skills training, and 225 others were placed in a three-month, on-the-job training experience. About 400 individuals were referred to short-term employment opportunities, 100 others to longer-term job positions.

“Attendees would come to centres where we operate and receive support from our consultants based on their skills and the demand for labour in the local job market, through awareness raising sessions,” says Wasim Al Saadi, DRC Area Manager–Northern Lebanon. “This resulted in our attendees joining practical instruction based on their respective skills, and eventually obtaining job offers following three-month practical training courses with local business owners.”

For over three years, Lebanon has been hit by the most devastating multi-pronged crisis in its modern history, according to the World Bank1. The unfolding economic and financial stressors that began in October 2019 have been further exacerbated by the dual economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the massive Port of Beirut explosion in August 2020.

Finding jobs amid the crisis has become extremely challenging for Lebanese, including those with university degrees.

“The training course I attended, which was both theoretical and practical, enabled me to properly carry out my job in the medical centre’s pharmaceutical department, as I come from a chemistry background,” says 32-year-old pharmacist Sarah Al Ayoubi from northern Lebanon. “I really needed the training, as I was unemployed at the time.”

Al Ayoubi joined the ILO programme and learned about the country’s labour law and the specific commitments professionals must make in their sectors. Al Ayoubi then spent three months working in the Marakem Al Akhlak Medical Center in Tripoli, putting into practice what she learned at university. This included dispensing medications to patients in coordination with medical staff, and ordering drugs though an official Ministry of Health online platform.

“I had a theoretical pharmaceutical background, but without the training I would have not been able to concretely learn the profession,” she says.

Business owners and institution representatives are also enthusiastic about the training programme and the work trainees are carrying out in their facilities.

“We have worked with DRC and the ILO, hosting their trainees,” says Chadia Samrout, Marakem Al Akhlak Medical Center Manager. “During this experience, we provide them with important information to help them in their career or to develop a specific skill that could prove useful for them professionally. At the same time, trainees are helping us in the daily job we carry out here.”

But the effects of the project have reached beyond the intervention’s goals included in the career guidance and employment services programme.