By Susanna Dunkerley
Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) is the winner of the Torino Process Award for the Entrepreneurship Key Competence. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, presented the award at the closing ceremony of European Vocational Skills Week, November 24, in Brussels.
The European Training Foundation (ETF) award recognises outstanding initiatives promoting entrepreneurship as a key competence through education and training, inspired by the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp).
Unlike classic entrepreneurship courses, the focus on key competence aims to build the entrepreneurial spirit in young people. PPU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation course beat dozens of entries from the ETF’s 29 partner countries neighbouring the European Union.
Offered to students in third-level vocational education, the course equips young people with competences and skills that enable business creation. PPU’s project-based learning approach emphasises teamwork, innovative problem solving, opportunity recognition, leadership, networking and communication – key features of EntreComp. Working closely with local businesses, students develop ’can do’ confidence to consider business as a career option.
Awarding good practice
The European Commission’s EntreComp framework is a reference tool for developing entrepreneurship through education and training. ETF Director Cesare Onestini says the Torino Process Award will help to inspire educators, training providers and policymakers in Europe, and the neighbourhood, to promote entrepreneurship as a key competence in education.
‘The ETF congratulates Palestine Polytechnic University for its innovative teaching and learning approach that is helping to equip young people with competence and skills to build a brighter, more prosperous future.’
From job seekers to job creators
More than 450 students have graduated from the programme, including many successful startups accepted into the university’s business incubator. Professor Wisam Shamroukh, who received the award in Brussels on behalf of the PPU, designed the course to ‘foster job creators, not jobseekers.’ ‘This is a deep change in the mentality of the graduates. From applying with a CV to a company to establishing the company themselves.’
Fadia Zahdeh, 31, a vocational graduate in multimedia and graphic design established Wonder Paper, a business that transforms and recycles paper to produce artistic objects for in-door decorations. She began the course as an artist but soon discovered her talents could turn to profit. ‘I started to ask more and more questions and now I have a business!’ ‘The teaching approach motivated me to continue the course and reach the expected outcomes. In fact, I exceeded this very quickly. I really received the right training and gained the skills to achieve my goals!’
Fayez Karakey, 21, a vocational graduate in photography and video production, established PalMotion, which produces 2D, 3D and stop-motion animation films, incorporating recycled materials. ‘I had the idea for my business before coming to the polytechnic, but I didn’t know I was an entrepreneur! I have used these new skills to transform my hobby as a designer into a profitable project.’
Business on side
The Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture is a close partner of PPU, working together to strengthen the links between education and business. For those young people who decide not to set up a business, the course ensures they are more attractive on the labour market, says the Federation’s Akram Hijazi underlining how PPU graduates are in high demand by companies because their skills match job market demands. Part of the success is the direct mentoring by business leaders with the students. ‘It’s very important young entrepreneurs get mentored by experienced business people. They get familiar with the needs of the market and the companies, saving time and effort for them and the employers.
Training the trainers
It is not only students and business benefiting. Prof. Shamroukh trains faculty staff at PPU and other education institutions in Jordan, Palestine, Portugal and Saudi Arabia. ‘I see a growing demand for developing systems for teaching entrepreneurship. This award makes me more confident with my approach and with my curriculum.’
European Vocational Skills Week:http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=1261