Now more than ever, workers across all sectors, especially those in vulnerable communities, will need to possess basic digital skills (and in most cases intermediate to advanced digital skills) to remain in or join the workforce as demand for digital economic opportunities continues to rise.
According to the 2019 World Development Report (WDR), 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 and this trend is only expected to accelerate. In addition, COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated and showcased the importance of digitalization and digital transformation.
Many children currently in primary school will be in jobs that probably do not exist today. We still remember what our high school teacher once told us: "You will spend 15 years in school and approximately 4 years in university to prepare yourself for a job that no one can affirm from now how it will be and what skills it will require."
Unfortunately, the Lebanese workforce is ill-equipped to thrive in a digital economy. Without the right skills, Lebanon may not benefit from the opportunities disruptive technologies and digital firms offer. Our education system remains severely outdated: The curriculum’s last update was in 1997, 24 years ago! It remains rigid, traditional in every sense of the term, and unable to adapt to the needs of today’s fast-paced world.
And to top all this, it does little to provide students with the necessary 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. According to the World Bank Human Capital Index, a child born in Lebanon today will only be 54% as productive as they could be had they had complete education and full health.
Skilling Up Lebanon (SUL)
In November 2021, the Beirut Digital District Talent Development Hub (BDD-TDU) partnered with the World Bank Group to launch 'Skilling Up Lebanon', which aims to develop a self-financed, private sector-led digital skills program. The 'Skilling Up Lebanon' initiative aims to increase access and improve the digital skills of children, youth, and workers in Lebanon. The World Bank will leverage its convening power to attract key global, regional, and local stakeholders, most importantly content and certification providers, while BDD-TDU will leverage its central position in the tech ecosystem to implement the initiative efficiently and effectively by partnering with local players while ensuring its long-term sustainability.
Before launching the SUL, the World Bank and BDD-TDU had successfully partnered on two previous pilot projects to initially test this multilateral partnership, with the third partner being the content provider:
SCHOOL IS OUT, LEARNING IS IN!: A campaign launched in partnership with Code.org in April 2020 during the first month of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This campaign promoted digital coding skills amongst children by leveraging Code.org’s extensive and fun content for kids
"Learn Skills for Most In-demand Jobs and Earn a Microsoft Certificate:" This activity offered free courses and Microsoft certifications for three of the most in-demand technical jobs (Software Developer, Data Analyst, and IT Administrator). It also targeted the vulnerable and underserved youth of Lebanon.
Based on the success of these two pilots, the World Bank and BDD-TDU launched the 'Skilling Up Lebanon' project. The project will start with a campaign expected to launch in Spring 2022 and focus on raising awareness, especially amongst 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 Academy 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.
We hope 'Skilling Up Lebanon' will help bring together major stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, together with tech giants, to work hand-in-hand to equip young Lebanese with the right set of skills to thrive in an ever-growing digital economy.