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SPARK: distance internships offer employment opportunities to young Syrians and Iraqis

AMSTERDAM–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In 2020, a small pilot program was launched by SPARK, an Amsterdam-based non-governmental organization to help struggling young jobseekers gain work experience. Funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the program matches young people with remote work placements at Iraqi and international companies. Today, more than 116 young Syrians and Iraqis have been placed on 3 to 6 month internships, many of them receiving permanent job offers.

Across Iraq, pandemic-related job losses and dwindling job opportunities have led to a spike in unemployment, from 12.76% in 2019 to 13.74% in 2020, according to data from the World Bank. Globally, remote work has become the norm for many workplaces. Despite some drawbacks, employers and employees overall have enjoyed multiple mutual benefits. From cost savings on travel and office rental to better quality of life and even increases in productivity. For young people living in places where job opportunities are scarce, remote work has opened up new labor markets for them.

SPARK co-designed the remote internship program alongside The Station, a leading Iraqi coworking nonprofit, and Kiron, a higher education NGO operating throughout the Middle East. Companies from the Middle East, Europe, Singapore, US and UK have joined the programme, welcoming young skilled Iraqis and Syrians into their digital teams within 3-6 months, internships at distance in the digital media, mental health and consulting industries. . The impact of the pilot program has been promising. A Catalyst Consulting report on the pilot internship program found that 16% of interns were hired by their internship employers or found another job or internship within 3 months of completing their remote internship.

After assessing company needs, SPARK and its partners carefully match interns to relevant positions within local or international companies. For trainees who do not have access to laptops or a stable internet connection, computers are provided and financial stipends for over 50 trainees in Iraq allow them to purchase data when needed.

The pilot program recently expanded to Lebanon, where 41 interns of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian origin successfully completed their internship and more than 50% of them were offered new jobs.

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