Cairo, Egypt, 27 January 2015 - A major conference aimed at addressing high levels of unemployment in the Arab World gets underway in Cairo, Egypt, today.

More than 100 experts will consider how to create more work for young people, one of the biggest economic and political problems facing Arab leaders today.

The British Council’s Symposium for Employability, Skills and Opportunities For young people in the Arab World, held in partnership with the League of Arab States, brings together private employers, government representatives, civil society activists, educationalists and academics.

They will consider how to tackle the region’s chronic skills shortage and help schools and universities prepare their students better for the world of employment.

Dr Mohamed Youssef, Deputy Minister of Education for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) said: ”the Symposium gives us a window on the outside world so we understand the British, the Moroccan, the Jordan experience. So understanding this is the best way to customise our own solution.”

“English is a universal language. All machines, all manuals are in English and as 50% of our students go to industry so this is a really important skill, learning the English language."

Adrian Chadwick, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa for the British Council, said: “It’s a great opportunity to look at current research, some from the UK and some from the MENA region, discover successful projects and understand what is leading to that success.”

Magda Zaki, Direct Education and Scientific Research Department at the League of Arab States, said: “Arab youth have qualifications but lack some skills and we need to encourage them to acquire those skills”.

Job creation remains the region’s biggest economic priority, with 4 million young people joining the job market every year, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

It’s estimated that the UNDP that the Arab World will need to create 50 million jobs by 2020 to accommodate its growing workforce. The region has the world’s most youthful population, with 30% of people aged between 15 and 29.

This Symposium brings together experts from the UK and from 12 Arab countries, including Ministry representatives from nine of those countries. As the UK’s international organisation for education, the British Council aims to connect UK and Arab educationalists and share their expertise and form new partnerships.

The British Council believes that the key to addressing Arab youth unemployment is creating targeted education for employment initiatives. Adrian Chadwick said: “All the experience globally and in the region is pointing to the fact that successful projects need partnerships – industry, civil society, universities – and they’re all here in the Symposium.”

Included in discussions will be the importance of English language skills, which for many students are the gateway to better job opportunities and higher pay. 

Notes to Editors

 About the Symposium 

The Symposium will be a two-day event of speaker led sessions, interactive knowledge-sharing and discussions on how the state and private sector can better prepare young people to enter the world of employment. It will be structured around a series of plenary presentations on key, panel discussions and smaller group break-out sessions on specific topics.

More than 80 delegates drawn from the worlds of education, business, civil society  and government will gather to debate one of the most important topics affecting the socio-economic development of the Middle East:  ‘Employability, Skills and Opportunities for Young People in the Arab World’.

 About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for education and culture. We have been sharing the UK’s language, education and culture in North Africa for nearly 80 years, since opening one of our first overseas offices in Cairo in 1938. Through our work we seek to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, HM Queen Elizabeth II is our patron.

Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and

 About the League of Arab States

The League of Arab States was founded in 1945 as a result of the Arab independence movements. The League provides a platform for coordination and cooperation between the different Arab countries in the areas of politics, economics, social affairs, and security.

The Arab League operates through the League's Council, the Standing Committees and the General Secretariat. The Social Sector is a major section in the General Secretariat aimed at promoting joint Arab activities in different social issues such as gender, health, humanitarian aid, social policy, youth, sports, culture, as well as education and scientific research.