On April 15, the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Lebanese American University (LAU), in partnership with Georgia Tech and industry partners, successfully started the Vertically Integrated Program (VIP) and the entrepreneurship and startup program (Create-X) to generate 23 Tomorrow's Leaders College to Work Pipeline (TLP) projects in Lebanon: five are part of the VIP program, ten are Create-X projects, and eight are VIP+ (combined VIP and Create-X) projects. The purpose of the program is to facilitate the transition of students from college to work by endowing them with the skills they need to either join a company and hit the ground running or to create their own startup company. This $3 million project was launched in October 2020 and is funded by the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). With this program, students will have the opportunity to find meaningful employment and leadership opportunities in areas that are of interest to them while they are attending AUB and LAU!
In just six months, the AUB team was able to design and create six new courses in the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture to ensure that TL students will get credit for their participation in the program. The TLP courses at AUB include a summer training course, VIP graduate and undergraduate courses, and a Create-X entrepreneurship course. In a parallel effort, the LAU TLP team successfully integrated VIP and Create-X into a hybrid program, called VIP+, with the objective of adding to the VIP experience an additional dimension dedicated for entrepreneurship and inspired by the MEPI grant requirement to have students innovate and create their own startups. In the first year, LAU students working on VIP projects are required to take zero-credit workshops on entrepreneurship and startups. At a later stage, and as their projects progress, they will decide whether they would like to follow through by establishing their enterprises or continue on a regular track. In May, AUB and LAU were officially added to the worldwide VIP consortium that includes 53 universities and became the first VIP centers in the MENA region.
The execution phase of TLP began with students completing internships with industry partners such as Beirut Digital District (BDD) and the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park ecosystems. The internships will be accompanied by a two-week bootcamp at BDD to instill confidence and promote innovation for our TLP Create-X students.
On May 31, the first bootcamp was held at BDD, the hub of startups and digital technology, where students were able to physically interact with one another and with guest speakers to gain great insight of the workplace they will face after finishing their studies. One of the most inspiring moments of the bootcamp was listening to young entrepreneurs' success stories, which gave these students hope in achieving their future dreams. The participants were also taken on a tour of BDD and AUB's innovation park ecosystems, where they learned about entrepreneurship space and met with more startup entrepreneurs. “The experience was very interactive and eye-opening for our students," said Dr. Mona Itani.
In addition to the tours, students participated in sessions in which they learned about the skills they need to become entrepreneurs and took part in design thinking workshops that helped them better grasp the marketing perspectives entrepreneurs use in their careers. Also, students learned more about the lean modern canvas, which is the modern way of doing a business plan, and used what they learned in a project pitch they did on the last day of the bootcamp.“Everyone can tell you the risk, an entrepreneur can see the reward" - Robert Kiyosaki.
With the huge success of the first bootcamp, a continuation will be held in the middle of August during which students will learn more about investments, shareholder agreements, term sheets, and topics requested by the students who participated in the first bootcamp.
With the high rate of youth unemployment in the MENA region, the MEPI-TLP pilot is a way to equip AUB and LAU students with the skills needed to find careers that inspire them to achieve the future goals they were always promised and bring hope for a brighter future. The youth is the future and the future is theirs.