Published on Arab Voices

Lebanon: Survey reveals gaps between education and the job market

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As much as 88% of Lebanese companies recently surveyed in the digital and tech sectors are actively looking to hire full time employees, yet are unable to find the right talent. This is a worrying indicator of the gap between education and today’s job market which seems to be widening with each passing year.

This is the outcome of a market digest survey conducted by Forward MENA, the education arm of Beirut Digital District covering 82 local digital and tech companies. The survey aimed to better understand their hiring needs and challenges faced in finding qualified talents. The survey was complemented with 13 one-on-one interviews with private sector industry leaders such as CMA CGM, CME Group, and Netiks.

The results of the survey and interviews found that companies in the tech sector are heavily recruiting. In fact, developers of all kinds are in high demand by large private sector employers, with 64% of companies interviewed looking to hire software developers. The survey also revealed that skills in digital marketing, social media, UI/UX design, and Adobe programs are in high demand as well. These skills would complement a more generic business profile, opening the door to better opportunities without requiring long-term training commitments.

Companies also emphasized the need for “strong” soft skills, including critical thinking, teamwork, and emotional intelligence, in addition to skills such as adaptation, resilience, and building one’s own capacity for continuous learning. Additionally, Developer Associate certifications and DevOps Engineering certifications are highly appreciated and are considered to be a strong asset in the hiring process for 72% of the companies surveyed.

While these results highlight the current digital trends, they also underline the difficulties in finding qualified candidates. In fact, 76% of companies surveyed claim that there is a gap between university education and the local job market. The main problem that companies are facing today is the mismatch between graduates’ skills and the job requirements of the market. This implies higher costs in terms of tech training to up-skill local talents to match the companies’ manpower needs.

One way of addressing this major gap is through the development of initiatives that provide up-and-coming talent and graduates with the necessary skills  and employer-valued certification needed to be employed in the sector today.

That is why in 2022 the World Bank and Forward MENA officially launched the Skilling Up Lebanon (SUL) initiative. It is an innovative and private sector-led skills development program that aims to inspire, train, and support young people in Lebanon to acquire market-relevant digital skills. Since 2022, SUL has implemented various youth-targeted activities, reaching approximately 11,000 youth across Lebanon.  Two activities were specifically designed to target vulnerable youth: a “gig economy training,” that offered digital training to 44 refugees based in Lebanon, and a “digital skills in low resource settings” training that targeted 8,223 individuals through 3 pilot programs in low resource environments (i.e. low infrastructure and connectivity). In addition, SUL partnered with Microsoft to deliver 10 training paths linked to an industry certification and employment opportunities to 2,867 Lebanese youth , out of which 750 completed the training and registered to the exam.

SUL also implemented two other pilot programs in 2022. It offered a career guidance program with awareness workshops on new job-market trends to more than 1,400 youth in 21 schools across the country (including 10 public schools). It also implemented an internship program that has so far helped place 214 interns, out of which 105 women, among 160 companies, to date. Forward MENA, with financial and technical support from the World Bank, has recently completed the implementation of 3 pilot programs reaching over 140 youth, aged between 20-35 years old, across the country: (i) a User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI) design training, (ii) a DevOps training and (iii) a Digital Marketing training.  For these pilots, the main technical skills needed to participate include JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Python and SQL.

The SUL initiative is helping to close the education-to-market gap by being a resource for youth in schools, university students, mid-level professionals, and vulnerable groups who want and need jobs in the tech sector. Its career guidance services aim to raise awareness and knowledge of the fast-changing nature of today’s job market, as well as provide internships and training on the ground. SUL is keen to cover the top three most in-demand digital skills, while also providing trainees with a certification for these skills.

These trainings will also include a behavioral component which will help improve job-seekers’ communications skills and soft skills in general; all of which will enhance their chances of finding further work opportunities. The partnership that Forward MENA is building with employers and private sector firms in Lebanon to provide internships and jobs for youth is a considerable asset that complements the efforts of the World Bank in addressing the educational and job gap facing the Middle East and North Africa region today.


Sabine Habibian

EdTech Consultant for the World Bank

Angela Elzir

Labor Market Specialist, World Bank

Ahmad Jaber

Communications Specialist & Consultant with World Bank, Mashreq Gender Facility

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