The Career Center at The American University in Cairo (AUC) established four employability and career-development centers (ECDCs) across three Egyptian universities, funded by an award received from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). In collaboration with corporate partners, NGOs and training providers, the project aims to help Egyptian youth earn skills that are necessary for them to meet the demands of the changing job market.
“The ultimate aim of this project is to ensure that Egyptian youth are graduating with tools that truly enable them to thrive in their careers,” said Maha Guindi, executive director of AUC's Career Center. “By supplying students with basic job-search skills, as well as interview and résumé-building tips, we are ensuring that they are leaving university with expertise that will benefit them for life.”
Funded by USAID, the project commenced in June 2012 and is expected to end in May 2015 during which AUC’s Career Center will be utilizing funds and allocated space at Ain Shams, Suez Canal and Assiut universities to inaugurate employability and career development centers that replicate AUC’s Career Center model. Career Center professionals, who are licensed from the National Career Development Association in the United States, will work closely with these institutions to furnish the ECDCs, as well as recruit, train and certify career-development facilitators. They will also build ECDC staff capacity by offering on-the-job training on how to run a career center, organize employment events and fairs, as well as create and coordinate career and employment activities.
“Youth in Egypt are generally able to attain adequate levels of education,” said Guindi. “However, many of them don’t know how to plan for their careers and are not sufficiently informed of effective job-search strategies. ECDCs play a critical role in providing support to Egyptian youth in these areas and training them on how to build relationships with organizations and potential employers, as well as how to make a successful transition to the world of work.”
A large component of the project entails providing employability training to select outstanding students. Training will also be offered in specific technical tracks, with one of the four career centers being established with the sole purpose of servicing engineering students at Ain Shams University. Students chosen for this initiative should be in their junior or senior years, possess a high GPA and fit a set of employability criteria.
Mostafa Yehia, a junior student at Faculty of Engineering, Ain Shams University, was looking for a training that would enhance his leadership and employability skills and would add to his career, “In fact, I didn’t expect it’s going to be that fun. They deliver the knowledge in a creative way through games and exercises,” he said. Yehia noted that he learned how to deal with people professionally depending on analyzing their different personalities.
“Through these training sessions, we are able to assess the students in terms of their skills,” said Maha Fakhry, director of recruitment and employer relations at AUC’s Career Center. “Students are able to realize that career decision making is a dynamic process, looking past their degrees into fields that extend beyond the scope of their education. The sessions may also generate an interest in entrepreneurship, whereby students ultimately create job opportunities rather than merely utilizing them.”
According to Fakhry, in Egypt we lack the culture of providing career guidance in schools and universities. “In many countries around the world, career counseling is offered to high-school students. Through this initiative, we aspire to produce focused graduates and diminish the gap between the job market and higher education,” she said.
AUC’s Career Center was established in 1991 as the first University career center in the Middle East that provides comprehensive employment and recruitment services to students, alumni and employers. For many years, the Career Center has educated students and alumni for lifelong career planning, providing assistance in identifying professional objectives, designing and implementing job-search strategies, as well as exploring experiential learning, employment and postgraduate opportunities.