First re-training centre to fight graduate unemployment

Tunisia, in cooperation with Germany, has officially opened the first centre for guidance and professional re-training, aimed at matching and adapting the university qualifications of young job seekers to the future needs of the job market.

The Centre d’Orientation et de Reconversion Professionnelle, or CORP, opened on 1 September and is seen as a step in implementing Tunisia’s 10-year higher education and research reforms, which focus on improving graduate employability and revitalising research.

CORP is a practical response to the weak performances of Tunisia's university graduates, which have been identified in several reports and include:
  • • A mismatch between the qualifications of graduates and needs of the labour market.
  • • Lack of advice for job seekers and information on prospects after graduation.
  • • The ‘soft skills’ that are needed by companies but are lacking among graduates.
To tackle the weaknesses commonly found among Tunisian university graduates, CORP will focus on promoting professional training and employment through experts, technical assistance and supporting companies to identify their workforce needs and select candidates.

Official figures indicate that about 63% of all students in tertiary education institutions in 2010-11 were enrolled in the humanities and social sciences and only 37% were studying for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees needed for industrial development.

To deal with the problem of too many graduates in fields not needed by Tunisia's market, CORP will also provide re-training that helps to skill graduates in areas and occupations needed by companies.

Graduate unemployment

The unemployment rate among university graduates reached 28.6% in the second quarter of 2015, according to the survey on population and employment conducted by the National Institute of Statistics – Tunisia.

A recent World Bank report entitled Labor Policy to Promote Good Jobs in Tunisia indicated that graduate unemployment was almost at crisis levels. It was taking on average six years for a university graduate to find a stable job.

The report partly blames universities for contributing to the employment crisis because of low quality and lack of relevance of education.

According to a report published last month by Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, private higher education institutions have boomed in recent years, increasing in number and capacity and now attracting about 10% of all university students.

The labour market has been flooded with more university graduates than it can absorb, and competition from private sector graduates has become a major threat to those from public universities.

Tunisia has only three higher education institutions in the recently published top 30 African universities ranking by Times Higher Education, which measures research impact only. They are the University of Tunis (20), Ecole Nationale d’Ingénieurs de Sfax (21) and University of Sfax (28).