Universities urged to prepare students for ‘market needs’

AMMAN — Universities should provide a base for entrepreneurship and technology education, alongside business incubators which hone the skills of potential entrepreneurs through training sessions and boot camps, experts said on Thursday.

President of Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II Technical University, which is still under construction, Labib Khadra said the major step lies in setting up the “right” curricula for university programmes, in consultation with private stakeholders in order to better address the “needs of the market”. 

Speaking at the Technology Education, Entrepreneurship and Business Acceleration Forum, organised by the Information Technology Association of Jordan (int@j), Khadra highlighted the 6,000 unemployed IT engineers and scientists as a direct result of the mismatch between higher education outcomes and market needs.

The same issue applies to graduates of other disciplines, including energy, he added.

Khadra noted that all 32 private and public universities in Jordan, with some 33,000 students currently enrolled, offer similar programmes and have similar study plans.

To solve this problem, the university will take on board the recommendations of business and IT sector leaders regarding the design of curricula, with the aim of enhancing the employability of graduates in the vocational and technical fields, and their ability to start their own companies. 

The president added that the university will offer intensified courses for unemployed engineers in soft skills, as well as technical and English-language training to enhance their chances of finding employment. 

For his part, Omar Hamarneh, CEO of iPark, said campus business incubators alone cannot promote the culture of entrepreneurship, noting that there must be educational programmes within study plans to introduce entrepreneurship to students.

These elective courses should also present the success stories of Jordanian innovators and entrepreneurs. 

While students, academics and researchers have been able to benefit from on-campus business incubators, Hamarneh said more efforts are needed to deepen the culture of team work, as opposed to the instructor-students hierarchy. 

Nidal Bitar, CEO of int@j, described the forum as a platform for sharing expertise to help further cooperation between business acceleration and technology education.  

CEO of Oasis500, Faisal Hakki, said the incubator will soon increase its ticket for seed-stage funding from $50,000 (some JD35,500) to up to $100,000 (some JD71,000), to be able to fund even more promising business ideas.

He added that the incubator is now running theme-based boot camps, rather than generic ones, in order to better generate business ideas.

The event was carried out in partnership with Orange, the EU, OSSCOM, Al Hussein Technical University and the German Jordanian University.

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