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Focus on the Middle East

April 2012

Forget Becoming a Doctor–Become a Plumber Instead

PhotoTeaching welding skills in Jordanian vocational center

For ambitious parents who eye their children as aspiring doctors or engineers vocational training is often dismissed as ‘undignified’ and ‘beneath them.’

However, with massive unemployment and pent-up frustrations in many countries, there is a growing awareness that mechanics, plumbers and electricians can often find full employment and healthy salaries.

There is a growing awareness, too, among vocational centers that they must work more closely with local industries to develop training courses appropriate to industrial needs.

There are 42 vocational training institutions in Jordan and beginning several years ago JICA experts introduced model curricula more responsive to local needs after holding extensive meetings with administrators, instructors and, crucially, local business leaders. By next year, all of these centers will have been upgraded.

PhotoVocational training in Aqaba, Jordan

In Jordan's lone seaport of Aqaba, four junior and senior volunteers, Saki Hanzawa, Takatoshi Sato, Ryuhei Yamaguchi and senior Minoru Yamazaki are working for two years with some of the 179 students in such fields as welding, refrigeration and auto mechanics.

Twenty-eight-year-old Saki Hanzawa studied Arabic and Islamic culture at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and her job is particularly crucial in the new climate in the Middle East.

With her language skills she acts as a ‘job matching and career development advisor’ in other words: "After the Arab spring we are focusing on making sure that the students are being taught the skills local factories want so they stand a good chance of actually getting jobs when they graduate from here."

That is vital in an economy where the youth unemployment rate can top 20% according to local officials.

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