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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Google's new Arabic digital skills drive aims to improve job chances for young people

'Maharat min Google' will focus on women and improving the gender balance in the Middle East and North Africa

Joyce Baz, head of communications and public affairs at Google MENA, speaks at the launch of Maharat min Google in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National
Joyce Baz, head of communications and public affairs at Google MENA, speaks at the launch of Maharat min Google in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National

Google has launched a digital skills programme in Arabic to empower young people and prepare them for the workplace.

Maharat min Google looks to support Arab women in particular to find jobs, improve their careers or start their own businesses.

Maharat, which is Arabic for skills, offers free courses, tools, and in-person digital skills training to students, educators, job seekers and businesses.

“Today, the opportunities that technology provides are bigger than ever and there is more that we will like to do to ensure these opportunities are available to everyone,” said Google chief executive Sundar Pichai in a video message at the launch event in Dubai.

“We want to make sure we are empowering all.”

There is a growing gap between what the digital economies of today and future need and what the job seekers can offer based on their skill sets. To bridge that gap, Google is offering that training to people who are already a part of the region’s workforce and those who will join it in the future.

The online platform - g.co/Maharat - has 100 lessons across 26 core topics in digital marketing that include search engine marketing, social media, video, e-commerce, geo-targeting, and data analytics, among others. Participants will get certificates upon completion of the full course, which takes about nine hours to complete. The training programme is accessible on any platform.

“This programme has unique features,” Matt Brittin, Google’s president of business operations across Europe, Middle East and Africa after the launch. “It is built on our experience of digital trainings all around the world. It is built on Arabic, and based on what we see the needs of the region to be [in the future].”

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, April 15, 2018 - Attendees  at the Maharat Min Google announcement at Youth X Hub, Jumeirah Emirates Tower, Dubai. (Leslie Pableo/For The National) for Business story by Sarmad Khan
The Arabic language Learn with Google project aims to prepare young Arabs for the workplace. Leslie Pableo / for The National

Google, he said, launched training programmes in Europe in 2015 and set itself the ambition of training a million Europeans. At the time, it seemed a very ambitious target and the company did not know it was going to meet it, he said.

“We were blown away by the demand and we have now trained 3 million Europeans and 2 million across Africa,” Mr Brittin said.

“But we never had, until now, Arabic language content and we have been working on this for a while. We haven’t set ourselves a big target [in the Mena region], partly because we want to get this thing moving and reach out to communities, but, I would hope to see a similar level of demand [that was seen in Europe].”

Women are contributing to innovations coming out of the Arab World and yet this region has among the lowest level of female economic participation globally, Mr Pichai said in his message. "We want to help change this," he added.

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This low level of participation meant the Mena region had the biggest opportunity to make an impact, Tarek Abdalla, head of marketing, Google Mena, said at the launch event. Women make up 50 per cent of the graduates in the region but only 25 per cent work and out of that, only 19 per cent participate in vocational or on-job training, which is below the 44 per cent ratio for women in other parts of the world, he said.

“There is a lot to be gained from this level of economic participation and inclusion. In fact, Middle East has most to gain out of anywhere else in the world,” he said. “Combined economies [of the region] can grow by almost 50 per cent by 2025 if we achieve gender parity in the workforce and that is the largest impact globally out of all the markets.”

The Maharat initiative works alongside educators, local partners and government bodies to improve digital skills of the current and future labour force and entrepreneurs. Research shows by 2020 one in five jobs in the Arab world will require skills that are not widely available in the workforce today.

In the GCC, up to 3 million jobs will be at risk by 2025 because of this skills gap. More than half - 51 per cent - of young Arabs consider unemployment as their biggest concern and only 38 per cent believe their education gives them the skills they need to enter the workforce.

Google has partnered with Injaz Al Arab, a regional non-profit organisation, which will roll out in-person training to 100,000 students across 14 countries in the region, focusing on young people in underprivileged and rural areas.

Google is also working with the Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation which will train 100,000 people in Saudi Arabia. Both collaborations with Injaz and the foundation will target 50 per cent female participation. The company is looking for further local partnerships across the region with governments, universities, private-sector businesses and non-profit organisations to expand the reach of Maharat programme.

“We are proud to bring Maharat to the region and look forward to see more people grow their careers and shape the digital future of the Arab World,” Mr Pichai said.

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