Supporting employment of Palestine refugees: matching emerging market needs with youth aspirations

Local news, 15.12.2021

UNRWA provides young Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan with technical and vocational skills to access the labor market and to fulfil their aspirations. UNRWA Technical and Vocational Education and Training Programme (TVET) is renowned for both its quality and its pioneering role in curriculum development, and lately started engaging with digital transformation. SDC has recently established support to the programme, which is in line with our commitment to increase job opportunities by better linking private sector demand with the required skills of Palestine refugee youth. 

A group of Palestine refugee students in one of UNRWA’s TVET centers in the West Bank. Students are attending a newly introduced course on smart-home technologies funded by Switzerland.
A group of Palestine refugee students in one of UNRWA’s TVET centers in the West Bank. Students are attending a newly introduced course on smart-home technologies funded by Switzerland. © SDC

“I applied to this course because I already know that I will be able to get a job. In my region there is a high demand for security and alarm systems installment, maintenance and repairs but there are not many qualified professionals. Some of my friends went to University, but employment opportunities are better for me after this training than for them once graduated” said Mahmoud, a young Palestine refugee from Tulkarem. (The names of students quoted in this articles have been changed).

Mahmoud is one out of 8’000 young Palestine refugees benefitting from UNRWA’s TVET to foster livelihood opportunities and access to the labour market. The programme has a great success rate: 80% of the participants found an employment over the past years although, due to Covid-19, the level dropped in 2020 to 74.5%. UNRWA achieves this result through alliances with the industry, labor market relevance and the innovation of its staff. UNRWA Placement and Career Guidance offers orientation to UNRWA school students and placement assistance to TVET graduates.

TVET plays an increasingly important role in mitigating poverty and UNRWA’s aim is to improve and increase access to TVET for Palestine refugee youth, particularly those from vulnerable groups. In fact, UNRWA uses selection criteria to promote access to the most vulnerable youth.

For these reasons and in line with the new Swiss International Cooperation Strategy 2021-2024, and the Swiss Cooperation Programme Near-East 2021-2024, SDC’s newly established support to UNRWA TVET centers and digitalization aims to increase job opportunities and offer livelihood opportunities to Palestine refugee youth, including to the most vulnerables.

SDC focus: digital technology and innovation

Students of UNRWA Qalandya TVET center
Students of UNRWA Qalandya TVET center © SDC

On November 24th 2021, staff members of the Swiss Cooperation Office in Jerusalem visited UNRWA TVET center in Qalandya refugee camp, located in East Jerusalem but beyond the Israeli separation wall. The center provides vocational training to about 335 boys in the area of Electronics, Information Technology and Mechanics. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Qalandya TVET center managed to keep a high level of employability among their graduates: 85%.

Staff members and students confirmed the need to modernize UNRWA TVET offers and to foster students skills in new expanding economic sectors related to new technologies and digitalization.

Thanks to the SDC’s grant, in Qalandya TVET center two new courses were identified as priority to respond to a high market demand: smart-home technologies and security & alarm systems.  

Another TVET student, Taysir, told SDC visitors: “I selected this course because they introduced the smart-home training. I know there is already a high demand in Israel and this will also reach Palestine. I just want to be able to work, become independent and support my family.”

Indeed, small and private businesses already confirmed their interest in this new skills and will offer on-training opportunities to young Palestine refugees. SDC grant will also support UNRWA purchasing the needed equipment and software to provide this high quality trainings, as well as increase the technical expertise of the UNRWA TVET trainers. 

A group of TVET students in smart-home technologies
A group of TVET students in smart-home technologies © SDC

Qalandya TVET center is only one of the 8 Vocational Training Centers of UNRWA and each one will update its curricula depending on local private sector needs and employment opportunities.

UNRWA remains a key partner to Switzerland in the region and work relentlessly to empower Palestine refugees to achieve their maximum potential, to support the regional market and contribute to the overall development of the Palestine refugee society.

Since its inception, UNRWA TVET Programme has graduated approximately 123’000 students.

For more information:  UNRWA Vocational Training