For the 44 percent of Palestine’s youth who are unemployed, finding their place in the job market requires persistence, flexibility, networks, and the right mix of skills and experience, as 22-year-old Omar Abu Arra came to find out.

Just months before he was set to graduate from Birzeit University with a degree in accounting, Omar seized the opportunity to gain both practical skills and professional connections through Leaders, a Palestinian NGO supporting youth leadership and economic development. Omar not only took part in twenty hours of life skills training, but also benefited from career guidance counseling, an internship, and networking events with potential employers.

Omar’s participation in these activities represents just one piece of a larger story. For five years, 16 youth-serving institutions like Leaders have benefited from technical and financial support through the Youth Entrepreneurship Development (YED) initiative, implemented by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) with funding from USAID. As a result, nearly 1,100 youth have found employment and those organizations that serve them are now far better equipped to respond to youth needs over the long term.

Just as YED took steps to strategically strengthen the youth-serving sector over time, so, too, did Omar pursue a step-by-step approach to advancing his career. Through participating in the Passport to Success® life skills training, he fine-tuned his interview skills, developed his resume, and learned about labor market requirements. By attending a career day event hosted by Leaders, he was able to practice his newfound skills with potential employers. As a result, Omar was offered a three-month internship at a management company offering him the chance to further develop his professional skills and acquire valuable experience.

“Internships are a time to make mistakes and learn from them,” says Omar, adding that with such experience one is less likely to make the same mistake in a permanent position. While Omar was offered a job at the company where he interned, he turned it down in favor of devoting himself full-time to completing his degree.

After graduating, Omar set out confidently in search of a job—putting his hard-won skills and experience to work. Before long he was hired as a sales representative at the Union of Construction and Investment, a position he’s held for almost a year now. While not totally aligned with his degree, he realizes the importance of remaining flexible in a competitive job market.

Reflecting back on his employment journey, Omar recognizes that steadfastly acquiring each piece of the employment puzzle—essential skills, career counseling, connections, and experience—was vital to his success.

Through its work with youth-serving institutions—and partnerships with 765 Palestinian companies—YED is working to ensure that many more youth like Omar have access to the building blocks they need to pursue productive futures.