Bridging the gap between education and employment in Morocco.
By Jean AbiNader
Although Morocco came through the recent global financial crisis without a significant setback to its economy, there are still major challenges to its economic growth programs. In a country of approximately 35 million people, at least 40 percent of workers are in the agricultural sector, which contributes less than 20 percent of the country’s GDP, even in the best of times. Youth unemployment is at least 20 percent, and university graduates face difficulty in matching their degrees to jobs. The national exam system excludes many young people, regardless of gender, from the opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies that would enable them to become more highly skilled and attractive to employers. The Brookings Institution study on youth unemployment estimated that youth unemployment costs Morocco close to 7 percent of its GDP.
The good news is that Moroccan and international companies continue to invest in Morocco to take advantage of its competitive wages; geographic location accessible to markets in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East; and the government’s pro-business policies. As Ron Bruder, founder and CEO of the Education for Employment Foundation (EfE) wrote, “Ironically, while all these young people in Morocco remain without jobs, many employers report difficulty in finding qualified employees.” These needed skills, as is true in most of the Middle East, range from technical and scientific comprehension and facility to soft skills of writing, teamwork, leadership, and communications—the lack of which undermines their confidence and ambition to succeed.
Nawfal Fassi-Fihri, director general of EfE Morocco, outlined several approaches that are at the core of effective training programs:
Utilize effective methodology. Trainers must engage trainees in a highly interactive manner, encouraging their participation, and focus on both hard and soft skills related to concrete job opportunities. Morocco has launched several development plans ranging from tourism to ITC and off-shoring, parts manufacturing, financial services, and renewable energies—all of which require training for potential employees.
Train trainers in effective approaches. Too often, trainers have learned on the job and have little ability to move beyond simple technical skills driven by memorization models. Most Moroccan high school and university graduates—who are potential hires—have some technical capabilities, but these need to be scaled up rapidly if they are to compete successfully. Management of training remains caught in the bog of outdated techniques, materials, and systems. Companies and agencies must focus as much on training as they do on setting productivity goals; they are inextricably linked to one another.
Focus on giving trainees the opportunity to prove themselves. While financial job incentives are important, Moroccans are more interested in job stability and the opportunity to prove themselves. They still have strong family ties and responsibilities, so long-term employment is highly desired. Training that incorporates hard and soft skills directed at specific job opportunities is most attractive. While the work ethic generally may vary from region to region, younger Moroccans eschew government jobs for more promising and lucrative positions with companies. They want to feel part of a company and its future, especially if they have invested effort to become productive employees.
Tie training programs to local opportunities. This helps ensure they will appeal to the entrepreneurial instincts in many young Moroccans, both men and women, who will build on their training and create companies that can contribute to the value chain and reduce costs by sourcing locally to required specifications. Taking a broader view of what training can accomplish will give Moroccans and the country a sense that the investor/company is a partner for the long term.
Morocco is a land of opportunity. With hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in renewable energies, tourism, financial services, and manufacturing, there are significant demands for training in hard and soft skills. The Tangier Med ports project alone is projected to create 200,000 jobs in the next 10 years. How Morocco meets this demand will depend on how well it brings its technology and training base up to the standards needed to compete in the 21st century.
Jean AbiNader is senior associate, Middle East/North Africa, at Global Dynamics, Inc. (www.global-dynamics.com). He has designed and delivered training across the Middle East for 30 years.