Consortium led by King Khalid Foundation, Hilton Worldwide KSA, and International Youth Foundation Highlighted at Conference 

Business leaders attending the three-day CSR Saudi Arabia 2013 Conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, are being encouraged to participate in a new multi-sector initiative that has been designed to improve employment prospects and promote civic engagement among Saudi youth. Saudi Youth@Work, a partnership between the King Khalid Foundation (KKF) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) with additional support from Hilton Worldwide and the Saudi Ministry of Labor, was launched in 2012. Among the program’s core activities is to adapt and deliver IYF’s Passport to Success®  life skills training for Saudi youth in order to prepare them for jobs in the hospitality and other sectors of the economy.  

The conference attracted top business, government, and NGO leaders, in an effort to help participants increase the effectiveness and impact of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, while also ensuring alignment with their core business strategies. Key themes of the conference include job creation, community-based initiatives, gender diversity, and growing a knowledge-based economy. 

The keynote panel, entitled “Stakeholder Engagement: The Importance of Partnership in Generating sustainable CSR,” focused on the Saudi Youth@Work initiative, which is currently providing entry-level employees in four Hilton hotels in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Riyadh, with the skills and practical training needed to be successful as they begin their new careers. In addition to preparing Saudi youth for success in the workplace, the program will also help strengthen the capacity of local youth-serving organizations to better serve the employment and civic engagement needs of the Kingdom’s younger generation.  

IYF MENA Director, Dr. Mohammad AIMbaid, opened the discussion. “Youth unemployment is a global challenge, not just an Arab or Saudi one,” he said.  “But no matter where you live, the growing numbers of young men and women who can’t find decent jobs is having an adverse impact on the economic, social, and political life of our countries.” Given the complexity and magnitude of the problem, Dr. AIMbaid added: “We must build innovative, inclusive alliances, as we are doing with our program, where the government, the private sector, civil society, and youth are coming together to improve young people’s employment prospects and support their aspirations for a better life.”     

“We are pleased to be partners with the King Khalid Foundation and the International Youth Foundation here in Saudi Arabia to help young people prepare to enter the workforce,” said Ayman Madkour, Country Learning and Development Manager, KSA, Hilton Worldwide. Noting that 73 million new travel and tourism jobs will open up around the world by 2022, Mr. Madkour added: “Hilton is leading efforts, in KSA, to train young people for jobs in the service and hospitality sector. We hope that these multi-sector efforts not only expand employment opportunities but also contribute to the growth of our business and the industry.” Hilton Worldwide recently commissioned a report, Creating Opportunities for Youth in Hospitality, to raise awareness around global youth unemployment and highlight solutions hospitality companies can participate in and support.  

There has been a growing effort in the country to ensure the private sector has a well trained Saudi workforce to boost economic growth in the years ahead.  Mohammed Mosly, Director of Strategic Partnerships Program at the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), brought this perspective to the discussion.   “We are very interested in looking at public private partnerships as a crucial pathway toward expanding youth employment. The Ministry of Labor and HRDF are currently working on a number of such partnerships,” he said. “They include the nationalization through social investment project that supports the role of civil society organizations in youth employment efforts, and a CSR strategy for the Ministry of Labor to develop incentives for private sector companies engaging in CSR programs that serve the strategic objectives of the Ministry.”

Continuing the conversation around the role of multi-stakeholder initiatives in advancing economic and social progress, Huda Hakki, Programs and Projects Department Director of the King Khalid Foundation, said: “While Saudi Arabia ranks among the highest in the world in terms of philanthropy, we’ve found that developing partnerships helps ensure these resources are used effectively to build a vibrant civil society and flourishing business and entrepreneurial community.”  Noting that over 65 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is below the age of 25, Ms. Hakki confirmed that job creation and employment opportunities for youth “are top priorities for the country and the region.”