American Univesity of Beirut

CCECS empowers more youth with digital skills

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications, communications@aub.edu.lb​

The Center for Civic Engagement and Community Services (CCECS) completed its Digital Skills Training (DST) program cycles for this year, graduating 505 trainees with different qualifying certificates. One of CCECS's signature projects, the program has been implemented since 2016 in coordination with local organizations and in partnership with the United Nations World Food Programme and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

The DST program was designed to provide youth aged 18 to 35 years from underserved communities, including refugees and vulnerable Lebanese youth, with technical expertise and relevant soft skills to prepare them for employment in an expanding digital-based economy, particularly given high unemployment rates, the significant number of refugees, and the current challenges that Lebanon faces. It spans over 10 to 12 weeks and is designed by AUB experts to cover basic and advanced courses including Python, full stack web design, and English language, in face-to-face and online formats, in addition to soft skills for career readiness, freelancing, and entrepreneurship.

It emphasizes teamwork and project-based deliverables as means to encouraging social cohesion, self-confidence, and interpersonal skills. Following graduation, dedicated staff connect program participants to opportunities for further education, training, internships, and work as appropriate (both virtual and non-virtual).

“CCECS's experience suggests that expanding the metrics of effectiveness beyond employment rates to include how the DST responds to youth marginalization and political polarization, provides an instrumental case study for crisis management and programming in the humanitarian sector," said CCECS Director Rabih Shibli. 

Each training cycle lasts a few months during which participants are taught soft skills and offered 90 hours of digital skills and 60 hours of English language. Trainers are hired locally and supervised by AUB faculty members from the English Department and Computer Science Department. 

Since the start of the last phase of funding, a total of 506 students (60% females, 40% males) received 917 trainings during the last phase of funding which started in October 2020 and ends on December 31, 2021. This group of trainees was Lebanese, from Beqaa and Tripoli. Four cycles of training were held in Tripoli, with 393 trainings; while five cycles were held in Chtoura, Beqaa, providing 524 trainings. The program trained the participants to enhance their opportunities for employability in growing online markets, develop their interpersonal skills, and increase social cohesion among refugees and vulnerable Lebanese youth.

Abdel Karim Hamed, a 23-year-old Lebanese man who lives in Majdal Anjar in the  Beqaa with his wife and two children, is one of the trainees. He is currently completing his last year in communication engineering at the Lebanese International University and was always interested in acquiring programming skills and discovering the web development world. He expressed that the DST program offered opportunities to apply acquired knowledge as he volunteered as a web developer and developed a webpage for himself to promote his work. He added that learning English was a valuable extra skill that was needed to further polish his communication and written skills.   During his last cycle of training, Abdel Karim's professors recommended him as a teacher assistant in the center.

Douha Akkari is a twenty-eight-year-old Lebanese woman from Akkar, north Lebanon, who graduated with a master's degree in physical geography from the Lebanese University. She lives in Bab Al Tabbaneh in Tripoli, and as a bread-winner, she works as a freelance Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping specialist. “Python is very important for the GIS field; it opens the doors for new developments and additions to my work," she said. After her newly acquired skill, Douha decided to include programming in her GIS work and is using the skills she learned from her Business English class to promote to the level of a GIS developer. She said she was happy to learn from a reliable source, a lot of important concepts in a very short time.

“DST has been supporting the income generation capacity of marginalized youth in Lebanon for over five years," said Sarah Kouzi, CCECS programs manager. “Through providing job-readiness training, entrepreneurship incubators, and facilitating access to emerging digital markets, youth are better equipped to weather the country's protracted economic downfall." To date and since its inception in 2016, DST has reached more than 2,700 beneficiaries across four governorates in Lebanon.

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