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Pandemic sparks new career paths for tech-focused youth in Middle East

Pandemic sparks new career paths for tech-focused youth in Middle East
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Arab youth in the Middle East are branching out into different post-graduate career paths as a result of high unemployment and the shift to remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students and experts said on Monday.

“With the rise of e-learning ... it’s really making students question whether there’s value in pursuing traditional post-graduate studies when you can develop specific skills online,” Marah Ajilat, a student at Oberlin College, said at The Hill’s Aspiration and Resilience: Arab Youth & The COVID-19 Era event.

“We should have a switch of mindset because the job world has tremendously changed,” said Shavit Rootman, an entrepreneur and account manager for Arbox, a U.S.-based online platform for gyms and fitness studios.

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According to the Brookings Institution, youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa have been the highest in the world for over 25 years. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the employment situation while also opening up new career options.

Christopher Schroeder, author of “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East,” said at the event sponsored by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates that the pandemic has made people more accepting of purchasing products and services online, creating a prime opportunity for young people with an ambition who are willing to take risks.

“This is a large market, there’s a lot of opportunity here, and if they are given a chance to succeed from government and institutions top-down ... they can actually do anything,” he told The Hill's Steve Clemons.

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Nour Hussein, chief growth officer at Tarjama, a translation agency based in the United Arab Emirates, added that employers in the U.S. and Europe are increasingly hiring tech savvy graduates and entrepreneurs from the Middle East.

“They are realizing that we’ve got the language capability, technology and the infrastructure,” he said. “There’s no restriction to us being able to break that glass ceiling and being able to offer services there.”