An international collaboration to provide employment skills to disadvantaged young people in Morocco, Scotland and Wales is helping change lives for the better.
Youth unemployment in Morocco is currently 22 per cent for men and 38 per cent for women. With the Moroccan government’s youth integration strategy tending to focus on unemployed graduates, marginalised young people have few opportunities to break the cycle of deprivation. The situation is shared by Wales and Scotland where around five per cent of 16-18 year olds are classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training).
To tackle this, the British Council initiated a programme to support vulnerable young people in these three countries.
International Skills Partnerships brought together three UK colleges - Coleg Gwent, Coleg y Cymoedd and West Lothian College - with BAYTI, a Moroccan NGO working with vulnerable young people in disadvantaged regions, and Spanish NGO, Aid, Exchange and Development (AIDA). Together, they aimed to improve young people’s life chances by giving them skills for employability.
Consulting with employers to find out what they need
The partnership initially engaged in open discussion with local employers. This gave employers an opportunity to share their insights and explore where skills training would be most accurately targeted. It also provided the chance to dispel some of the negative perceptions of vulnerable young people and their employability.
Supporting young people to gain skills for employment and soft skills
The outcome of discussions with employers was the development of a soft-skills based curriculum. The first of its kind in Morocco, it was designed to help young people succeed by enabling them to interact effectively with others in the workplace. From this, the partners created a pre-employment curriculum - piloted simultaneously in Morocco, Wales and Scotland – that was designed to meet the needs of both the young people and their potential employers.
Providing high quality advice and guidance
Participants were also given advice and support to increase their self-confidence and enable them to make informed career choices.
Sharing best practice between partners
During the project a virtual learning platform was created where the partners could exchange thoughts, ideas and methodologies. As Daniel Evans, Head of Commercial and Enterprise at West Lothian College explained:
"We learned a lot from our Moroccan counterparts – how they liaise with employers and how the training providers stay with the young people after the course has finished to ensure that they are properly bedded into their job. We have adopted some of these approaches and it has really made a difference to our outcomes."
"One UK participant was able to break a generations-old pattern of joblessness, while others said they felt valued for the first time in their lives."
By sharing experiences and expertise with each other, the partners have been able to change the lives of young people, with many going on to secure employment in hotels, restaurants and as mechanics. The project manager, Luz Maria Ostau De Lafont, said: "We have been able to ensure that their skills meet the needs of employers”.
Prior to the programme, an average of five per cent of disadvantaged young people from these areas were able to secure jobs or go into apprenticeships or further education. Following the programme, an average of 70 per cent of the young people involved got jobs or went into apprenticeships or further education. Seventy five per cent said they felt more confident about the future. Ten out of the 20 participants have entered employment and a further 200 are signed up with the backing of the Moroccan government.
For employers too, the fact that the young people have been equipped with workplace skills has meant increased efficiency and productivity. What's more, the project has succeeded in changing the perception of employers about young people in vulnerable situations. Mustapha El Felahu Idrissi, a restaurant manager in Morocco who employed one of the participants said: "The experience is very positive for us. We really believe that every young person should be given opportunities in our Moroccan society.”
Read more about the project, and the vision to share the model more widely, in the downloads section below.