Closing the Gap in MENA: Education to Employment Bridge

Education to Employment Bridge Saudi continues to build Employment – Education Bridge In Pursuit Of Knowledge based economy.

In Saudi Arabia, like many countries, companies are keen to demonstrate their commitments towards improving the connection between school leavers and the jobs market. Not only does this commitment demonstrate an understanding by companies of the gap that exists in many countries around the world, between the skills of school leavers and the skills demanded by the market, but also shows a willingness of companies to take a long-term perspective.

STEM skills (science, technology, economics and mathematics) are the academic demands of the market and in many places – such as Saudi Arabia – are taught to a high standard. However, what is often missing is the application and relevance of these to a working environment (Education to Employment Bridge). Such skills can be better transferred and applied to the working environment if soft skills, such as a strong work ethic, inter-personal skills, and the ability to identify, analyze and solve problems are also provided during the education process. Needed in addition to these soft skills, is the ability of an individual to transfer and apply these skills to work-related tasks, such as; organizing resources, establishing priorities, gathering data and compiling information, preparing reports, and the management of people.

Many organizations have embarked on addressing this connection within their own, corporate capacities. For example, Rabigh Refining and Petrochemical Company, sends its own staff into primary and high schools on awareness campaigns, providing programs on safety, health, and the environment in addition to offering extensive apprenticeship programs and summer training courses. Such provision enables new recruits to start employment at the company well-prepared for the demands of the working environment, simultaneously increasing productivity levels and reducing the need for, and costs associated with, additional training.

At the national level, governments have an important role in supporting corporations and non-profit organizations in bridging this gap and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of recruitment cycles. In Saudi Arabia, policies are already in place to facilitate an increase in Saudi national and female employment throughout the national workforce, and this is spurring the transition to a knowledge-based economy. Best practices in recruitment can be gleaned from other countries within the MENA region, with Morocco adopting a gender-equality strategy in 2006 by means of a new labour code which endorses the principles of equality and non-discrimination in the workplace. The outcome of this strategy was greater motivation of organizations to recruit women and address former gender biases. Algeria and Oman have policies in place which ensure men and women receive equal pay for equal work. This has had a positive effect on the attraction of women to the workforce. In 2008, Tunisia passed a law that led to greater flexibility in the workplace to enable women to better manage family and work priorities (source: ILO, Institutions and Policies for Equitable and Efficient Labour Market Governance in the Arab Region.)

What many of these advances in recruitment demonstrate is the benefits of partnerships. With the coming together of governments, companies and non-profit organizations, extensive and mutual policies can be developed. With policy support and encouragement from the state, companies can not only increase their acquisition of talent from along an increasingly educated talent pool, but simultaneously address the skills gap between school leavers and the jobs market, and reduce some of the gender inequalities in the labour force.

In Saudi Arabia, such partnerships are making headway. The hotel group, Hilton Worldwide, has partnered with various youth organizations in Saudi Arabia to develop soft skills for the industry. Bupa Arabia has strict health, safety and well-being policies in place, and regular trainings on business ethics and acceptable boundaries. This has served to reinforce the corporation’s cultural identity and motivated and engaged employees. Nestlé has its ‘Centre of Excellence’ facilities which provide training and shadow opportunities, particularly for women. This supports the development of a positive working culture, which helps with staff retention and productivity levels, while also extending qualifications to support the personal career-growth of employees. Intel, in line with its work in the technology field, has initiated a science fair to raise the interest of maths and science among young people and to encourage progression towards relevant fields of technology and engineering.


  1. ILO, Institutions and Policies for Equitable and Efficient Labor Market Governance in the Arab Region
  2. Websites of the mentioned organizations
  3. World Bank Data
  4. Unicef Saudi Arabia Statistics
  5. UNESCO Youth and skills
  6. UNDP in Saudi Arabia
  7. The Investor Study, The UN
  8. The Third Arab Report on the Millennium Development Goals 2010 and the Impact of the Global Economic Crises
  9. Saudi Gazette
  10. Arab news

Article Education to Employment Bridge