I have been working in the digital industry for the past 5 years in Lebanon. When I started back then, it was an emerging industry and the online references were limited to couple video tutorials. Today. the resources and academies produced by top companies in the tech industry cover all aspects of the digital skills including coding, design, and marketing. Yet, the formal education system, and graduates displaying a poor work attitude are the among the main reasons fresh graduates in Lebanon can’t get hired or find jobs.
It is true that skills gap is a universal problem. Employers around the world in different business sectors are experiencing difficulty finding the right candidates with the required skillsets and the MENA region suffers from the highest youth unemployment rate (80%) in the world especially among fresh graduates. Yet the absence of digital skills has been a rising issue across all careers whether related to technology or not, with the increasing transformation of how we do things every day.
The HR landscape can no longer apply the traditional business practices. Today, social media plays a vital role in hiring. Most recruitment is done through social networks changing the world of HR professional. Online HR tools are developing to connect and understand employees and to reach and attract talent. Not to mention the quick social media background checks to assess candidates whether that should be taken into consideration or not. Thus, the use of digital in HR is a must and HR professional are encouraged to learn and develop digital skills.
I have given above a very simple example of a business that it’s employees should be empowered with digital skills in order to succeed. But if I had to talk about careers that are the heart of any digital service and in which having digital skills is not an option but rather a MUST. I would be talking about marketers, designers and programmers.
The 3 roles needed for ANY company to thrive in the digital revolution.
A travel agency requires a designer to create couple engaging posts for social media. Also, a developer to constantly update their website, and a marketer to provide a working strategy and the same process applies to any other business.
Today, the most in-demand jobs are those related to the digital skills. There has been recently a significant job growth of marketers, designers, and programmers in Lebanon specifically and in the Middles East in general. I have been trying to recruit fresh graduates in Lebanon in the above fields. Yet, I am really surprised by the lack of the very basic digital and soft skills.
The most common feature is that most show up to the interview late, that is if they actually show up. Most don’t even remember the company they applied to. Not to mention that they don’t actually invest their time in researching what the company does before showing up to an interview.
It is sad that fresh graduates in Lebanon aren’t equipped with the desired digital skills required in the modern workforce. Individuals and with very basic research will notice that for example, graphic designers in most businesses are required to do work for online materials. Such as designing a blog post to be placed on social media, or a banner for a website. Thus, showing up to an interview with couple bags full with university projects won’t really help. It is true that the current education systems in Lebanon have not kept pace with the demand for these digital skills. But what is also true, is that the number of free online resources available to help you learn such activities has rapidly developed in the past couple years. You can check Hootsuite Academy for social media skills, CodeAcademy for coding, TeamTreeHouse for web design…
What is really also surprising is that even when candidates were guided to learn and develop the right digital skills, the attitude of not willing to learn or work on self-improvement makes a big portion of fresh graduates in Lebanon “unemployable”.
Although i have a degree in advertising, and i can remember that most content related to marketing i came across during university was related to the traditional marketing approach and not related to the digital space. So, i did start my career by working for free to understand what digital marketing was. I have managed to develop digital skills when the only available online resources were couple youtube videos. But “i have learned for myself”.
As my career developed, I realised that the “digital marketing skills” are no longer enough. I found myself learning photoshop, illustrator, and Dreamweaver… Possessing such design skills is mandatory. compliment marketing. It helps marketers understand how much time is spent to create banners and how typography and colours represent a brand.
As marketing evolved more and more into the digital space, coding was the next must-have skills. I found myself learning basic coding skills including html, css, and some php. The only was to learn is never reading but rather practising and this blog was born. From installing WordPress, choosing a theme, and editing content. Then tapping into e-commerce with magento, and woocommerce. Installing a payment gateway, uploading a landing page on the server, and editing the content of a bootstrap page helped me understand how better “marketing instructions” can help developers work efficiently.
The digital skills gap is a product of multiple trends that can be summarised into two main points. First, the modern-day digital skill requirements outpacing formal education. Second, companies should be helping fresh graduates in Lebanon develop such skills in the workplace. Fresh graduates should also have the “right attitude” and willingness to learn or else the ability to grow and to innovate in Lebanon will be severely constrained.