Jerusalem: Successful LWF Vocational Training Graduates

Yousef has opened a metal workshop in Ash-Shuyuk and provides employment to his brother. Photo: LWF Jerusalem/T. Montgomery

“A Decision I will never regret”

(LWI) – Since 1949, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Jerusalem program has offered a vocational training program for Palestinian youth. The program provides training in automobile repair, carpentry, catering, craftwork, metalwork, plumbing and central heating, secretarial work, and telecommunications.

“Education is the key”

LWF General Secretary Rev Martin Junge visited the Center in December 2014. “It gave me hope to look into the eyes of the young people,” he recalls. “While I recognized in some of them the pain of violence, loss and conflict, I saw in all of them a determination, a real thirst for a life in dignity: earning their own salaries, finding a place in society, contributing to build the social and political fabric of their society”.

“That's why they are learning in the VTC, even when traveling long distances, or sometimes spending hours at checkpoints: education is the key and these youth want to use it,” Junge adds.

Many young people have since learned essential job skills and even opened small enterprises. By doing so, they have in turn impacted their communities. Meet some of them in the following stories.

Job skills and market navigation

On a hillside just six kilometers northeast of the city of Hebron lies the village of Ash-Shuyukh. Home to approximately 9,000 Palestinians, Ash-Shuyukh is known for its rich agricultural resources. From the top of the hill, one can see for kilometers over the rolling fields of grape vines and olive trees.

Jasim, 26, graduated from the LWF Vocational Training Center in Beit Hanina in 2006. After graduation, he was eager to work on his own and have independence. He opened his own workshop in 2007, with the encouragement of the Vocational Training Program (VTP). In the seven years he has owned his business in Ash-Shuyukh, he has become the village expert in aluminum, serving the surrounding area with his knowledge and skills.

In 2013, Jasim opened a joint workshop with his brother, Ahmad, a 2011 graduate of the VTP. Ahmad, a carpenter by trade, is one of 23 graduates from the VTP who received assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through the Church of Sweden. This project to assist graduates included conducting a feasibility study for the businesses proposed by the graduates and then providing a course in project management for the graduates. Through the project, the VTP purchased equipment for the graduates with a rent-to-buy agreement.

The VTP provided both Jasim and Ahmad with an education that not only taught them the skills in their respective fields, but also how to navigate the market. Their education empowered them to leap into an unpredictable market and an economy impacted by years of occupation. The lessons they learned from the VTP, both inside and outside the classroom, remain with them. Someday, they hope to give back to the VTP by participating in the apprenticeship program, an opportunity that allows students to learn from people with experience in their fields.

Providing employment

On the outskirts of Ash-Shuyukh, just down the road from Jasim and Ahmad’s workshop, 25-year-old Yousef has started his own metal workshop. After nearly eight years navigating the labor market, Yousef, a 2006 graduate of the VTC in Beit Hanina, decided to open his business in Ash-Shuyukh. Yousef says that although he earned a good salary moving from job to job, he is much happier with his newfound independence. He is also able to provide employment and income for his brother, who, after four years at a university in Yemen, could not find a job when he returned home. With the education of the VTP, Yousef and his brothers are able to create their own schedule while providing quality craftwork for their community.

Jihad, a graduate of the VTC in Beit Hanina in 2007, opened his own carpentry workshop in 2014. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, he worked with large Israeli furniture stores near Issawiyeh for nearly six years. When he enrolled at the VTC, he initially wanted to study central heating. With enrollment full in this program, he decided to pursue carpentry. When he first began his business, he sold mostly to large furniture stores. Through word of mouth, though, he has been able to find individual clients who are interested in his work, one of them being a former classmate at the VTC in Beit Hanina.

A life-changing decision

Located just off the bustling town square of Ash-Shuyukh, 26-year-old Qusai has started his own auto-mechanic garage. After graduation from the VTC in Beit Hanina in 2007, he worked in many different garages near his home village of Ash-Shuyukh. In 2009, he decided to open his own garage. His beginnings were simple, located in a small building on the outskirts of Ash-Shuyukh, but he eventually moved into a larger space that allowed him to add a car wash in addition to his garage.

Qusai’s father, a principal of a local school in Ash-Shuyukh, has been a proponent of the VTP, encouraging the many youth of the community to consider vocational education, especially if their interests do not include a university degree. Qusai says that some considered the decision to pursue vocational training over a degree in higher education to be disgraceful for the son of a school principal. However, because of the support of his father, he, as well as the community, sees the benefits of vocational education. It is a decision he will never regret, Qusai says.

Yasmin could say the same about her decision to enroll in the Secretary Training Programme in Ramallah. After her father’s death, she knew she needed to help her family. She could not afford to attend university both due to the long period of time it takes to complete a degree and the financial obligation; therefore, the VTP was an excellent option.

During the program, she learned practical skills, including computer and electronic training. In addition, Yasmin states that she gained self-confidence and developed a stronger sense of herself. After completing the VTP Vocational Secretary course in August of 2013, Yasmin was hired to work at United Motor Trade, where she had also done her apprenticeship. She describes her class as a tight-knit group of women who are now working in a variety of different secretary jobs throughout the West Bank.

The establishment of the Vocational Secretary program and the creation of three-month internships have provided opportunities for young Palestinian women in the West Bank, who may not otherwise have the opportunity, to receive training and to find employment after graduating.