Market-Friendly Education for Jordan’s Youth Earns High Marks
Luminus Education prepares Jordanian youth and refugees for careers that match national needs. © Luminus
The five-star Four Seasons Hotel Amman calls itself the “crown jewel” in the heart of Jordan’s capital city—and landing a job there is 21-year-old Yassin Al Khatib’s crowning achievement. That was possible thanks to the career-focused skills that Al Khatib—the youngest of five children of unemployed parents—acquired at Luminus Technical University College.
When Al Khatib was considering hotel- and restaurant-management programs, the combination of academic and practical learning that Luminus offered appealed to him. (At that time, it was a private community college known as Al Quds.) He knew that local employers liked it, too.
As his studies progressed, school administrators and staff members connected him to potential bosses and prepped him for interviews. As graduation approached, the job offer arrived, too. He felt ready for the challenge. “In real life, you need to be able to think critically, which I’ve learned here,” says Al Khatib.
Luminus has helped provide Jordan with workers whose skills are tailored to the needs of the national and regional economy. That’s due in large part to the vision of Luminus’ owner, Ibrahim Al Safadi. The Al Safadi family took over Al Quds, the community colege, in 1999 and launched Luminus Education in 2007 to consolidate operations that included many educational programs. Luminus’ programs aim to tackle the severe skills mismatch between workers and employers throughout Jordan. The emphasis is on vocational studies that help students like Al Khatib secure employment immediately after graduation. Luminus also began offering degree-level programs last year.
Luminus’ methods are helping combat Jordan’s youth unemployment rate at around 50 percent—a situation that contributes to widespread social ills. As of 2017, Luminus had graduated over 40,000 students from 23 countries. Its employment placement rate is over 80 percent. The company’s commitment to educating women has made a significant difference for thousands of female graduates around the country and is helping to transform the workplace. IFC made an $8.8 million investment in the company in 2013 to support these initiatives and advance market-focused education in the region.
Strengthening education systems for refugees and host communities was one of the topics discussed at the World Bank Group’s Fragility Forum 2018, which took place in Washington, D.C., in early March. Several panels were broadcast on the World Bank Live website.
From Textbook to Table
For Al Khatib, who is now a food server at the Four Seasons Hotel Amman, Luminus’ emphasis on languages—particularly English—proved valuable in his job search. As Al Khatib says, Luminus emphasizes that “working in the real world is very different from an academic way of life.” The assistance Luminus provided in preparing him for his job search—guidance that even included tutorials on body language—served him well.
This is in stark contrast to the situation of other graduates in the country. Typically, students in Jordan are largely unaware of the talent the private sector demands or the salaries companies pay. This is because there are few links between education institutions (which stress a theoretical approach) and private sector employers (which need practical skills). Graduates are often insufficiently prepared for the workplace and most universities do not assist graduates in finding employment. That, combined with limited job opportunities, results in an unemployment rate of 25 percent for university graduates.
Luminus approaches this problem from a different angle than other educational providers: It offers top-notch facilities, aligns its courses with market needs, and engages with students on employment options. Luminus now provides 50 accredited programs in 12 areas of academic specialization including business, information technology, and creative media at three campuses in Jordan and one in Iraq.
The current enrollment stands at more than 4,500, and the student body mainly comprises youth from low- to lower-middle income households in Jordan.
Outreach to Women and Refugees
Luminus has carved out a role for itself helping to address other social issues in Jordan, like the dearth of educational and employment opportunities available to women. Forty-four percent of its students are female and Luminus works to facilitate their entry into a variety of industries. It engages employers to create workplaces that are more conducive to the participation of women; for example, it encourages employers to allow women to wear the hijab, and holds “bring your fathers to work” days to reassure parents about working conditions. Luminus also counsels parents one-on-one to address concerns that could discourage them from allowing their daughters to pursue employment.
Luminus has begun exploring ways to ease Jordan’s refugee crisis as well. The company has secured over $19 million in grants from the Jordanian government and donor partners, including the European Union, the government of the Netherlands, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). As of 2018, these multi-year grants have covered the balance of tuition for more than 3,000 refugee students.
Luminus works closely with potential employers to identify available jobs before admitting students who are refugees so that they are guaranteed a job at the end of their training. Since the first cohort of graduates from the program in 2017, more than 560 students have secured employment.
In addition to the equity investment, IFC has provided Luminus with advice on how to enhance its offerings and sharpen its focus on employment by strengthening the company’s core business of education. IFC has introduced company officials to a variety of potential partners at our biennial Global Private Education Conference, which showcases best practices from private vocational institutes.
As it grows, Luminus will continue to emphasize a mix of academic learning and entrepreneurial training with in-demand “soft skills” like teamwork. It’s been useful to Al Khatib: “The training we receive [at school] helped me learn a lot about myself, both good and bad, which helped very much when it came to getting a job and keeping it,” he says.
To read more about IFC’s work in education, visit www.ifc.org/education
Follow the conversation: #IFCimpact
Published in March 2018.