"From Challenges to Opportunities: Key Insights of Collaborative Digital Skilling Initiatives"

April 4, 2023 | Andrew Ko

In today’s global economy, many individuals face significant challenges in finding jobs that align with their talents, specializations, and passions. Economic shifts, high unemployment rates, and a lack of digital skills and initiative, including limited connectivity to the internet to acquire digital skills, compound this challenge, leaving the majority feeling disempowered and anxious about their futures.

However, amidst this challenging landscape, there is also a reason for hope. With the right resources and training programs, individuals can develop the necessary skills to navigate and thrive in the digital economy. A comprehensive approach is essential, one that involves understanding the most effective pathways, aligning training to job requirements, and offering counseling and mentorship.

It is crucial to recognize that digital skills are essential for employment and personal empowerment. When individuals have access to training programs and support, they can find fulfilling careers and develop the skills and confidence to pursue their passions and positively impact their communities. With a global effort and the right approach, we can turn the challenges of today’s digital economy into an opportunity for a brighter future for all worldwide.

Partnerships and Collaboration:

Collaboration and partnerships are critical in driving successful digital skilling initiatives globally. We can work together to develop effective programs that address specific population needs by pooling resources, knowledge, and expertise. By working together, governments, private sector companies, and non-profit organizations can provide individuals worldwide with the tools needed to succeed in today’s job market. 

The ForasTech platform builds on the success of Skilling Up Lebanon, a program that implemented digital skills training to around 9,500 young people, both men and women, in Lebanon, with the aim to attract technology investments to the region. The new pilot platform aims to reduce youth unemployment in the MENA region by offering a personalized approach to skill-building, mentorship, and job placement, empowering young people in Lebanon to take charge of their career paths and achieve success.

As an example, we have recently engaged with The World Bank (including Solutions for Youth Employment), Forward Mena, UNICEF, and a coalition of leading technology companies, including Microsoft, LinkedIn, Amazon Web Services, and Simplilearn,  to pilot a platform in Lebanon. The platform, ForasTech, is being implemented by Forward MENA with the support of UNICEF and in partnership with the World Bank under the Skilling-up Lebanon initiative. ForasTech is financed by the PROSPECTS program of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Understanding the Population and Skills Gap:

It is crucial to deeply understand different population demographics and skill gaps to overcome the challenges of limited access to digital skills and opportunities. Addressing these skills gaps and barriers in overcoming accessibility to attainment and developing digital skills is essential for disadvantaged individuals to meet the current and future demands to thrive in the digital economy.

Through our work, we recognize that it is critical to deeply understand Lebanon’s population and skills gap to overcome these challenges. According to a study by Forward MENA and Boston Consulting Group, the following statistics highlight the need for addressing skills gaps and barriers to developing digital skills among disadvantaged individuals:

  • The unemployment rate among Lebanon’s youth population, particularly women and those with limited educational opportunities, is high.
  • The population with internet access percentage is lower than the global average, particularly in rural areas.
  • Fresh graduates are qualified but need more real-life work experience.
  • The economy’s complexity and unattractive salaries compared to other countries result in a loss of graduates.
  • There is a significant digital skills gap in areas such as E-Commerce, Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, Cloud Computing, and Industry 4.0 (including artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and advanced automation).

As we continue to develop and implement digital skilling initiatives, it is essential that we learn from past experiences and build upon our successes to identify best practices and strategies for maximizing impact and helping individuals worldwide thrive in the digital economy.

Key Lessons Learned:

  1. A need for more than training content: In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, individuals require access to the latest tools and resources to remain competitive and adaptable. The success of digital skilling initiatives relies on creating an ecosystem that supports sustained individual growth, which includes providing training content, mentorship programs, career guidance, access to job opportunities, and resources for continued learning.
  1. Creating pathways for individuals: Creating clear pathways that enable individuals worldwide to navigate the digital economy successfully is essential. To achieve this, it is necessary to identify in-demand skills, develop appropriate training programs, and establish partnerships with employers to provide access to job opportunities. By offering a clear path to digital skills and employment, we can help individuals maximize their potential and contribute to the digital economy.
  1. Career guidance and access to jobs: Guidance on career development and access to job opportunities are essential components of digital skilling initiatives. By helping individuals develop the skills they need to succeed in the digital economy and connecting them with relevant job opportunities, we can help build a more robust and inclusive workforce. This requires partnerships with employers and the creation of job boards that allow individuals to connect with potential employers.

The key to unlocking the potential of the digital economy lies in partnerships and collaboration, understanding the population and skills gap, and applying the lessons learned from successful digital skilling initiatives. But the work continues beyond there. It’s essential to keep the momentum going and take action to ensure that everyone has access to the digital economy’s opportunities.

By providing sustained growth ecosystems, clear pathways, career guidance, and access to job opportunities, we can help individuals maximize their potential and contribute to the digital economy. It’s time to step up and make a difference, whether you’re an individual seeking to acquire new digital skills, an employer looking to provide training opportunities, or a policymaker seeking to address the digital skills gap. By promoting digital literacy and supporting digital skilling initiatives, we can build a more inclusive and prosperous world. The time to act is now. 

Stay tuned for the launch of FORASTECH this summer, which has the potential to serve as a blueprint for other countries to develop effective training programs to meet the needs of their citizens.

Hoteit, Leila, et al. “MENA TALENT MAP the Future of Outsourcing and Potential Opportunities for Emerging Countries in the MENA Region.” https://forwardmena.org/, Forward Mena and Boston Consulting Group, Dec. 2022, forwardmena.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/MENA-Talent-Map-report-Final.pdf.