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News || Tuesday, 07 June 2011

Middle East College Grads Flock to Souktel's Mobile Job Info Service

Having finally received their high school or college diplomas, new graduates should be feeling optimistic at this time of year--ready to enter the workforce and earn a living. Instead, many are confronted with a tough reality: Employers are demanding specialized training, or previous experience, before hiring anyone.
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There’s also a further challenge: In Palestine (and in many other countries across the Middle East), there are no on-campus job centers or counseling services to help new grads map out their futures. At most schools, once-a-year job fairs are the only option for getting acquainted with the world of work; representatives from different companies set up booths, and then help students get a better sense of what's required from job applicants. But with these events usually lasting for just one day, there isn't much follow-up--leaving many students asking: “Where do I go if I need more help?”
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For the past three years, Souktel has been working to solve this problem--helping transform these one-day “meet and greet” sessions into year-round linkages between employers and young job seekers. To ensure a steady, ongoing support system for new graduates in Palestine, Souktel sets up its own booths at nationwide job fairs each Spring--but then leverages its presence to sign up young grads for a real-time, all-year mobile phone job info service.
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This month, Souktel staff welcomed crowds of graduating students at two job fairs: The Birzeit University Career Day and a national job expo organized by the Palestinian Ministry of Labor. JobMatch team leader (and Souktel co-founder) Lana Hijazi helped nearly 200 attendees sign up on the spot to get regular SMS alerts about jobs and training courses.
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In the past few weeks, as schools across the country handed out diplomas, another 500-plus youth registered for the service. They’re already texting in to apply for paid positions and further training--like a course on working in the non-profit sector, offered next month by a leading local NGO. Close to 30 youth signed up for the event after it was posted via SMS.
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Lamis, a new graduate of Birzeit University’s translation program, is one of Souktel’s hopeful new users. “It’s a great concept for people like me,” she offers. “[I’m a] Palestinian young person who’s about to start looking for a job, and Souktel really helps me know what’s out there in the market. Before I graduated, I used the service to find a couple of training courses. Now I’m hoping that it can help me after the job fairs are over”.
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Souktel’s Hijazi agrees: "The job fairs are a great first step, but the students and graduates I speak with are still concerned about finding work the next day”. She adds: "Fortunately, a lot of students already know about Souktel and JobMatch, and those at the job fairs who hadn't heard of us got really excited when they learned how it worked. They all signed up because, in their opinion, they see it as a good way to stay informed about the job market. By using the service, they can get the skills and experience that employers want to see."