Inspired by an international exchange program, eight career centers in Algeria are experimenting with new techniques to help young people find work.
Last fall, eight Algerian professionals visited career centers in the United States as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Focused on career development and job creation for youth, the three-week trip was designed to give participants new insight for their work and share best practices. They came away inspired by the experience.
“The people who work on youth development and job creation [in the U.S.] are so passionate about what they do,” says Khaled Meddeb, a career counselor from El Oued. “That gave us the motivation to value the work that we do more and more.”
Now back in Algeria, all eight have returned to their regular roles in career centers in private vocational training schools supported by the Algeria Youth Employment Project (YEP), which is funded by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and implemented by World Learning. Since YEP launched in 2015, nearly 6,000 first-time job-seekers have benefited from career services tailored to local job markets — including vocational training, soft skills courses, career counseling, and internship and job placement — via nine local career centers.
During the exchange trip, the Algerian participants visited public and private career centers, community colleges, vocational training institutes, and government-sponsored youth initiatives in Texas, Michigan, Vermont, and Washington, DC. At each site, they had the opportunity to observe the workings of American institutions similar to their own career centers and bring lessons back to Algeria with them.
“What I liked at all the career centers was that they orient and accompany youth from the youngest ages — from elementary school,” says Fatima Guenaou, a YEP career counselor from Oran. “They educate them in life principles, rules of good citizenship, and how to construct their social and professional identity.”
Since returning to Algeria, they have been busy putting to work all that they observed during their U.S. visit. In March, Meddeb’s career center in El Oued organized a career fair that drew on best practices he observed at a career fair in Austin, Texas. Exchange participants from career centers in Biskra, Blida, Oran, and Setif are holding career fairs this month as well.
Amel Henni Mansour, coordinator of the YEP career center in Blida, is one of them. “I was so inspired by the fair in Austin that I want to realize the same thing to give our youth — the chance to know and be in direct contact with employers in their fields and to ask them every question on their professional domain,” she says. Mansour added that she also started to use bulletin boards for recruitment, training, and event announcements, and also encourage youth to volunteer as a means of gaining professional experience.
For both the State Department and World Learning, the trip presented a unique opportunity for internal collaboration: World Learning’s Global Development unit oversees the YEP career center project, which is funded by the State Department’s MEPI office. Those partners worked with World Learning’s Global Exchange unit — a selected implementer of the IVLP program through the State Department Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs — to organize the tour of U.S. career centers.
Today, thanks to that fruitful collaboration, the YEP-supported career centers are even better positioned to carry their work forward: In the months and years ahead, the IVLP exchange participants will continue build on the insights sparked by their time in the U.S. as they prepare Algeria’s job seekers for professional success.
— Andrew Farrand, Field Director, World Learning Algeria