Maged Hosny’s long-term objective is to change both Egypt’s cultural norms and official policies related to employment. He created a comprehensive career counseling program that will identify and develop students’ capacities and interests, inform them about the needs and opportunities in the labor market, and assist them to find jobs where they can best apply all of their assets.
The New Idea
Maged is changing Egypt’s policies related to education and employment through a multifaceted career counseling system that addresses both the aptitudes and talents of youth and the needs of the increasingly global labor market. Maged’s career counseling system will transform the way young Egyptians prepare to enter the workforce. He helps young people to see and articulate their interests and capacities, and to judge how these can be best applied to the current needs of the job market. By involving relevant actors throughout society, Maged’s initiative will drastically reduce the current supply-and-demand mismatch phenomena of high unemployment on the one hand and super-saturation of workers in certain fields on the other; problems that are caused in large part by lack of proper information and preparation. Maged focuses on youth studying in high schools, technical institutes and universities, and those who have already entered the labor market. Participants in the program first undergo a comprehensive assessment of their professional skills, interests, and potential. Then, through a series of information sessions, they learn about local and global market needs, professional environments, and the skills they need to develop to successfully compete in their chosen field. Maged then provides job placement services, ensuring that participants find viable employment that is suitable to their skill set. This service is the last step to ensure that youth find a job, and therefore enter a career, that is the “right fit”: A field that the young employee is able and interested to contribute to, and where his or her services are in demand. Maged hopes to reduce the widespread, inflexible, and debilitating emphasis placed on fields that are considered prestigious, yet which cannot accommodate the current flood of young applicants. Although youth unemployment and the super-saturation of workers in certain fields are significant, widely recognized problems in Egypt, no one has sought to address them in a way that focuses on preventive measures to change the culture and system.
The Egyptian labor market suffers from a huge gap between its needs and the enormous supply of young skilled workers. Egypt is home to more than 7 million young people who have graduated from high schools, technical institutes, and universities, but despite their training, the majority of whom are unable to enter the workforce the most prestigious but super-saturated fields. According to a survey conducted in 2004 by the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAMPAS), 65 percent of high school graduates, and between 25 and 30 percent of all university graduates, are unemployed. Of the total population of those able to work in Egypt’s formal and informal sectors, between 11 and 13 percent are unemployed. The lack of dialogue between the education and business sectors, demonstrated by the gap between the theoretical training offered by the education sector and the practical requirements of the business sector, lies at the heart of the problem Maged aims to solve.
Young people in Egypt must make important career decisions in high school. Based on their grades and their parents’ wishes, high school students must decide whether to attend university, where they would focus on sciences and the arts, attend a technical institute, or directly enter the labor market. The demands of the labor market and the natural abilities and interests of students are rarely taken into consideration in this process. As a result, many students focus on fields such as pharmacy or engineering, not necessarily because of relevant interest or ability, but because they are considered prestigious and lucrative, and because their grades permit them to enter those university faculties. Students with low grades are forced to study business and law, but have no information about job opportunities, possible specializations, or practical skills required in these areas. Ultimately, societal pressures and a lack of information artificially steer young Egyptians toward select fields, creating a surplus of workers that cannot be absorbed by the market, and diminishing the chance that youth will embark on successful and fulfilling careers.
Young people who do find jobs are often ill-prepared for the roles and responsibilities they are expected to assume in the workplace. This can be attributed in large part to their lack of experience in the chosen field, and their lack of appropriate professional skills necessary for succeeding within an organization. Indeed, only recently have internships become a valued element of early professional development in Egypt.
In 1993, Maged began work with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), where he prepared manuals teaching students how to write a resume and how to conduct an interview. By 2007 Maged had assisted more than 3,000 youth to prepare their CVs and had employed more than 1,850 people in CEOSS’s youth employment initiative.
Through his work with CEOSS, Maged observed that many young factory workers were leaving their jobs after a short period of time, creating a high rate of turnover. Maged wanted to understand why this was happening, so he spoke to employees in the factories most affected by this phenomenon and helped them to understand basic information about their jobs and the job market. As a result, workers had a better understanding and vision of their jobs, required skills, and competencies besides basic job knowledge like salaries and promotion. The turn over rate was reduced as a result of workers becoming aware of different fields in the factory and where and which fields would best fit them.
In 1996, Maged joined the Egyptian Center for Training and Employment in order to acquire more knowledge about the important ideas and general guidelines of career counseling and advice. As a variety of governmental and citizen organizations (COs) participate in and contribute to the Center’s activities, this served as a valuable network through which Maged developed his initiative.
In 2000, Maged worked with the Mubarak-Kohl Initiative’s vocational training program to prepare youth to enter the labor market. During his work, Maged discovered that 80 percent of the participating students enrolled in universities, rather than entering a vocational profession, as had been expected. Students had earned high grades in the practical skills-based assessments, which then enabled them to enroll in universities, but this caused the program to miss its goal to prepare a group of skilled vocational workers. This demonstrated the need to teach young people about all of their professional options, and to help them understand how their abilities can be an asset to the labor market. Though the students in the Mubarak-Kohl program were better suited for technical vocations, they were drawn away from immediate employment and toward the prestige of university, and in many cases, professional occupations leading to a dead end.
Maged’s extensive experience working on youth employment helped him realize that students were generally uninformed about the labor market, unaware of the practical implementation of their skills and interests, and unable to effectively choose suitable careers. To explore strategies implemented in other countries that experience challenges with youth employment, Maged traveled to France, Jordan, and Tunisia. He specifically studied career counseling programs instituted in these countries, using them to develop his own approach.
To date, Maged has initiated career counseling programs in collaboration with major development organizations, including the Egyptian-Swiss Development Fund, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the Aga Khan Development Network, and the Youth Center for Development. Around 500 young people have completed this program.
In addition to working with these organizations, Maged conducted pilot projects in three vocational schools in 2006. He worked in El Fania El Saniaia in Dar El Salam, Zinb Bamba Kaden in Saida Zeinab, and El Manila School for Girls. In cooperation with the schools’ teachers, Maged discussed the demands of the labor market and the importance of career counseling. He also offered teachers and students practical literature on these topics.
Maged has begun to develop recruitment offices that provide career services to youth, teaching them how to write resumes, conduct interviews, and develop their professional skills. These offices will also support youth in finding suitable job opportunities.
In the next five years, Maged will expand his initiative so that career counseling services are provided to young people throughout Egypt. The first step will be to establish his CO and to continue to spread awareness of his concept. The second and third years of Maged’s program will focus on spreading awareness of his concepts among relevant COs, educational institutions, government offices, and potential employers, encouraging the institutionalization of career counseling as a strategy to enhance youth employment. Maged will engage key actors through meetings, information sessions, and roundtables. He hopes that students who have received career counseling through his program will advocate on its behalf, and raise awareness on their school campuses.
Maged will also develop training of trainer (ToT) courses for organizations and institutes concerned with youth and employment. ToT courses will be divided into theoretical, practical, and evaluation sections and, using a manual created by Maged, will teach participants how to give valuable career advice to students.
In the last two years of his plan, Maged will step up his advocacy efforts by presenting the results and achievements of his first three years to decision makers. He hopes that this information will encourage the modification of the education system to include career counseling.
Maged’s initiative is not the first in Egypt to address young people’s ability to become viable competitors in the labor market, is the only initiative to focus on informing youth and enhancing their ability to make educated decisions regarding their professional future.
Maged lives in Helwan, outside of Cairo, and has received all his education there. Although Maged was initially interested in social work and the humanities, he studied commerce at the wish of his father, who was a math teacher. His father died in 1992, when Maged was still young. His mother was not working and his brother worked as a nutritional expert in El Kasr El Aini Hospital in Cairo.
Maged was most influenced by the late Father Samuel Habib, a Coptic priest and the founder and former director of CEOSS, who was his godfather and mentor. Maged considers Father Samuel a “leadership expert” who knew how to help people recognize their own value and potential. Father Samuel taught him that every person possesses capabilities that inspire them and that success and impact can be achieved even when resources are limited. Maged said that when he stepped into Habib’s office, he had a new understanding of what was most important in the world and this was very meaningful.
From his youth, Maged was involved in many of his schools’ social activities, which sparked and helped him develop his interest in social change. In the last years of high school and the beginning of his training at the institute, Maged gathered a small group of volunteers and led them in providing services to marginalized communities. Maged visited several poor districts in Cairo and met a lot of people in need. He wanted to gain a deeper insight into their problems, get to know them better, and help them understand their own leadership potential and ability to act as agents of change in their communities.