On March 30, 2021, the Faculty of Economics (FSE) and the Faculty of Educational Sciences (FSEDU) at Saint Joseph University of Beirut (USJ), have launched the CONECTE project, co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European Union (EU), during a public kick off meeting on Zoom.
CONECTE is a project focused on strengthening the links between universities and the workforce by supporting the employability of graduates through the improvement of the workforce information system and the development of an innovative mechanism for online and on-site trainings, targeting the skills required by the market.
Jointly led by FSE and FSEDU at USJ, the CONECTE project consortium includes 6 Lebanese partners: CNAM-Lebanon, the Islamic University of Lebanon (IUL), Jinan University, the Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon (CCIB), and the General Directorate for Higher Education (DGES), as well as 3 European partners: CNAM (France), the University of Mons (Belgium) and the Institute for Advanced Studies (Austria), and one international partner: Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF).
In his opening speech Prof. Salim Daccache s.j., USJ Rector, noted that the academic community in Lebanon is in great need of this type of project, not in terms of acquiring a passport to the labor market, as universities are in the process of ensuring high quality degrees, but it is obvious that a very challenging economic, financial and social landscape prevails, and this project is important as it helps to connect students with the workforce.
For his part, Fadi Yarak, Director General of Higher Education, stated in his speech that it is essential, in this time of crisis, to unite in order to give more chance and opportunity to our youth in order for them to succeed both academically and professionally.
Ghassan Zeeny, Acting President of the Basil Fuleihan Institute of Finance, added that this unit aims to boost the employability of students in sectors marked by the digital revolution and to experiment with innovative solutions, in order to adapt the learning opportunities.
The National Coordinator of the Erasmus+ Office, Aref AlSoufi, spoke about the innovative elements of the project, while Jean-Noël Baléo, AUF Regional Director for the Middle East, spoke about the importance of the project since its objectives are in line with the major strategic guidelines of AUF, and since it develops a coherent partnership policy with the academic world and the socio-professional partners.
Rabih Sabra, Director General of CCIB, gave a brief overview of the Chamber.
Nizar Hariri, Associate Professor at FSE-USJ, presented the project co-funded by the Erasmus+ program with a budget of more than 932,000 EUR, which aims to reduce the gap between the skills acquired at the university and those required by professionals and companies. Hence the need to identify the current and future needs of the labor market and employment, and to adjust and complement university programs to ensure graduate profiles in line with the expected skills. To this end, the project offers solutions focused on innovative learning centered on online courses and education through work and in professional situations.
Hariri continues: “Despite the uncertainties and constraints of the pandemic, the project has succeeded in setting up a forecasting model, the first of its kind, that allows us to anticipate trends in the Lebanese labor market and employment. Coordinated by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Vienna, trainings have already been organized to teach Lebanese experts how to use these forecasting methods and how to use the R-studio software, a free and powerful tool that provides multiple solutions to our research structures. These trainings will continue in 2021.”
“Similarly, trainings dedicated to the creation and use of virtual learning platforms have been provided by the University of Mons. [...] Last, workshops on training through work situations and on the French model of work-study have been initiated with Cnam (France and Lebanon) while waiting to be able to provide workshops (on-site) for the professionalization of trainers”, he concludes.
Sylvie Devigne, Project Manager at IUL, introduced the activities that are directly linked to the objectives of the project: “To understand the labor market in Lebanon, to identify the skills expected by companies, to train to the expected skills, to assess the acquired skills, especially by innovating, i.e. by relying on the company for this assessment, and to network in order to be part of an ecosystem to mobilize all the actors.”
In the second part of the virtual meeting, the main project axes were outlined: The development of a forecasting model for the labor market in Lebanon, by Eva Maria Liebmann-Pesendorfe (Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies - Austria), Virtual learning environment by Joumana Younis (Dean of the Faculty of Business Administration - Jinan University - Lebanon) and Sarah Descamps (Project Coordinator - University of Mons - Belgium), Work-based learning by Sanaa Hajj Safa (Head of the Department of Economics and Management - CNAM - Lebanon) and Anne Bonnefoy (Director of the Apprentice Training Center - CNAM - Lebanon - Paris), and finally, Networking and links between companies and universities by Mireille El-Rayess (Project Manager - AUF Regional Office)
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