In many rural areas, education no longer holds the promise of employment or a better future for Lebanese youth. Economic marginalization and high unemployment often pressure youth to leave school to alleviate the financial stress on their households. In Baalbeck, the lack of job opportunities increases youth vulnerability and pushes many to join political parties, which offer economic incentives to gain loyalty.
To address this issue, local organization Forsa engaged 60 at-risk youth from the Baalbeck area in construction skills training. “I used to waste my time playing cards or smoking hookah; now I have a job,” said Bassel Taleb, 18.
With support from USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, Forsa helped youth put their frustrations aside and their energy into learning plastering, tiling, and construction skills. The vocational training was combined with basic mathematics, essential for construction work calculations; labor law, to ensure youth know their rights once they’re in the job market; and civic activism training. For Bilal Abdel Hameed, 18, this was his “only chance to learn a profession in a region where there are no vocational institutions that offer such training.”
To put their new skills into practice and apply the concepts of citizenship, the youth painted a public building in Baalbeck and the interiors of three nongovernmental organization centers: the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training, the Lebanese Association for Students, and the Yammuni Cultural Club. These initiatives were an opportunity for youth to engage in volunteer work and market their skills. Following the initiative, 17 trainees were hired by local contractors. Many trainees voiced optimism about a better future: “I will work in the summer and after school to save my tuition fees and help my family,” said Ali Raad, 15.
Ten moukhtars (village leaders) participated in the graduation ceremony to encourage the organizations’ initiative and praise the youths’ efforts. The presence of these figures is significant, as they will promote Forsa as a service provider in the region. Forsa, which gave the graduates a toolkit to help start their career, will soon launch a website to help link young workers to potential clients. “Accessing jobs will further give youth the chance for a better future and will enable them to build better alternatives,” said Forsa Project Director Hammoud Shall.