“I really encourage graduates to take this type of training because I really noticed the difference as a manager. They come ready to work with valuable experience, work well under pressure, and work easily with others.” So says Rami Khleaf, the Human Resources Manager for Reach, a Palestine-based international contact company. He believes that the eight Palestinian youth who trained with Sharek Youth Forum through their Start Work program and as a result found internships and jobs at Reach have stronger employability skills than applicants who did not participate in the Sharek training.

Based on the success of this new partnership, Sharek and Reach Company signed a one-year agreement in August 2012 to provide paid internship opportunities with Reach for at least ten additional youth trained by Sharek. This partnership demonstrates the power of cooperative relationships between institutions that develop young people’s employability skills and private sector companies seeking to hire new graduates to decrease the gap between applicant skills and employers’ needs in the workplace.

Start Work was a six-month employability training initiative implemented by Sharek in 2011 as part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development (YED) program, a USAID-supported initiative of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) designed to improve job and entrepreneurship opportunities for Palestinian youth. In 2012, Sharek built on the success of Start Work and through another YED grant, implemented the Services and Training for Employment Participation (STEP) project, through which the planned Reach internships will be organized.

Nour Hussein, a 26-year-old woman from Jenin, is one of the Sharek trainees who found a job with Reach Company. After Nour earned a BA in English Literature from Al-Quds Open University, she participated in Sharek’s Start Work training. Through this training, Nour developed the skills she needed to find a job: “The problem solving session was the most important. I recommend other graduates to take this training; since it developed my skills, I’m sure it will develop others and give them multiple opportunities.”

Through the Start Work program, Nour attended Sharek’s job fair in Nablus, where she interviewed for a job with Reach. Nour now works for Reach and values the financial security it provides to her family. However, she recognizes this is just the first step on her career path: “I’m helping my family financially now, but I am hoping for even better opportunities. My ambition is big, and I want to be something in the future.”

Twenty-four-year-old Ahmed Assaf, from Arraba village, who is an Economics and Political Sciences graduate of An-Najah National University, had spent two years searching for a job before he learned about Start Work. Although previous experiences had given him a negative impression of youth employment trainings, Ahmed said this opportunity felt different: “I participated in many trainings and job fairs before, but I felt they were useless. When I entered Sharek’s job fair in Nablus, I felt that the companies represented there were really serious about providing job opportunities to youth.”

Ahmed interviewed with Reach at the Job Fair and was employed a month later. Like Nour, he gained important life skills from the training, particularly self-confidence, communication and time management. Now that Ahmed has found a job, he can begin planning for the future: “Working with Reach is a great thing to me. Financially, I became more independent and I really see this job as the first step to reach my goals and dreams. I really encourage all youth to participate in this type of training because of the great opportunity it gives.”

The Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program is implemented by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to the West Bank and Gaza. The program partners with universities and NGOs that work with youth in the West Bank to strengthen their ability to provide employability, entrepreneurship and service learning opportunities for young Palestinians.