Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the ways in which we do business, the ways students engage with their education, and how we all interact with each other in our daily lives.

How we support one other is changing, but the importance of supporting one another has never been greater. As economic uncertainty looms large, particularly for the world’s young people, it is imperative that access to education and skills training continues as unimpeded as possible.

That’s why IYF’s team in Palestine has been working these last few months to pilot a new forum to train new Passport to Success trainers—to find safe, physically distanced ways to continue building avenues for young people into the world of work. In June, in collaboration with the Palestinian Center for Youth Economic Empowerment, the IYF team completed a virtual training of trainers for a group of mentors and teachers from five partner Vocational Training Centers in the Gaza Strip—all as a part of the EquipYouth Palestine project.

It hasn’t been easy. In order to implement the first virtual training of trainers (TOT) in Gaza, the team had to navigate challenges ranging from frequent power cut-offs in the region to inconsistent internet connections impacting the ability of trainees to attend. Not least of all, these highly interactive and experiential sessions have always taken place in person, so adapting the six-day course into a virtual format seemed a tall order.

To overcome these obstacles, the team designed the course to combine remote training via Zoom with small in-person groups of teachers from the Vocational Training Center in Gaza. By dividing what would normally be a single large group into smaller groups, it was possible to practice safe social distancing while connecting every trainee to the digital technology they needed to access the training. The Master Trainer, dialing in from the West Bank, was then able to communicate with the groups individually via Zoom and facilitate the interaction between the two groups, as well.

Mr. Mahmoud Basal, a trainee from Gaza, commented on the course, “I have never imagined implementing a virtual training. We felt like the trainer is here in Gaza among us. It was always a challenge for us to find good material to cover the life skills training for our students, but now with this comprehensive curriculum for life skills it will not be a challenge again.”

Though this virtual training may have begun as an experiment necessitated by COVID-19, it is quickly morphing into an opportunity to reach more trainees and beneficiaries even after the pandemic subsides. Following positive feedback from leaders of the Vocational Training Centers and the trainees themselves, plans to conduct more virtual trainings in Palestine are already underway. It is the next step as we strive to improve our trainings and outreach to young people in a changing world.

If you are interested in experiencing some remote life skills learning yourself, check out PTS Traveler, our free game-based course adapted from the in-person PTS curricula.

Learn more about IYF's COVID-19 response and read other pandemic response stories to see how our programs are adapting to better serve communities.

Kevin Easterly is Coordinator, Marketing and Communications.