By Siham Ali
Graduates from Moroccan universities face a major challenge: finding jobs.
Often derided as “unemployment factories”, the universities have long had a bad image in the business world. Over the past few years, Moroccan officials have been trying to improve these institutes of higher education, which are increasingly adapting to the requirements of industry.
That was the reason for an April 28th-29th employment forum in Rabat, where the theme was “Moroccan Universities: A Hotbed of Skills and Innovation”.
According to Redouane Mrabet, the president of event organiser Mohammed V University at Souissi, the aim was to promote training courses for professionals, boost communication between universities and businesses and create an opportunity for fruitful exchanges between students and companies that offer work placements and career prospects.
“This is a way to help us students find jobs and know how to make the most of ourselves. In the education provided by universities, efforts are already being made to enhance employability through modules that train students in communication techniques (CV, job interviews). Short training workshops are run for students to help them get into work,” Mrabet said.
The government plans to transform the image of universities in the eyes of young people and companies.
Higher Education Minister Lahcen Daoudi underlined on April 25th that Moroccan universities lacked none of the things that foreign universities had to offer. However, he did concede certain shortcomings, such as the quality of the education provided and capacity levels.
“Universities now act as the driver of development, progress and the knowledge society, and we have to give them the human and technical abilities they need to raise the quality of education and bring them closer to the public,” he said.
Changing the image of universities is proving difficult, according to sociologist Rahma Chantoufi. She said there was a long way to go before graduates were accepted by the private sector.
“Over the past few years, universities have started to take an interest in the needs of the labour market. So they are offering new courses to students, including vocational undergraduate and master’s degrees. However, what has been done so far is not enough,” Chantoufi said.
Students also need to learn job search skills, she added.
Mehdi Bakkali, an economist, fully shared her view and added that consideration should also be given to the idea of requiring students to complete a work placement.
“It’s not right that university studies aren’t accompanied by immersion in the business world. This is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he stated. “Universities and the ministry must form partnerships with the private sector and even the non-government sector so that young people can complete placements before they earn their degrees.”
This proposal was welcomed by students, many of whom struggle to find work.
“It’s not for lack of willpower, but we university students always run into a brick wall in the business world,” said Hiba Nachat, a 19-year-old economics student. “It’s almost impossible to find even a placement without an intermediary. I had a bad experience with this last year when I sent off dozens of applications for placements without success,” she told Magharebia. She attended the forum in hopes of landing a job.
Salem Chalfi, who runs an IT company, acknowledged that businesses were reluctant to take on students and university graduates due to perceptions of the quality of the education.
“But I think we need to give these young people a chance. Businesses must be civic-minded and try to help graduates, if only by offering them placements. This procedure must be institutionalised,” he said.