National Employment Pact (NEP), Egypt
Egyptian German private sector companies in Egypt initiated the National Employment Pact (NEP) in 2011 as an immediate response to the uprising at Cairo’s famous Tahrir Square where young people called for ‚freedom, bread, and social justice‘. The lack of economic prospects fuelled the protests, while private sector corporations struggled to fill manual vacancies in the production and service industries in Egypt. The German Government immediately supported the private sector initiative.
The NEP Steering Committee formulates the overall policy and strategy, oversees all activities and monitors implementation. It consists of:
- Private sector partners: nine large Egyptian and German companies and the German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (initiators, annual financial contributions)
- German Development Cooperation with the GIZ Labour Market Access Project (provides expertise, technical support and financial grants);
- and the German Embassy provides patronage and political support during politically less stable times.
NEP developed high quality matching and job-placement services under the slogan „Fair Jobs for You“ and continues to offer them to a growing number of clients (jobseekers and private sector companies).
Direct target groups are young jobseekers and employers:
- Jobseekers between 18 and 35 years of age, without military obligations, and willing to work in proper blue-collar jobs.
- Formally established companies looking for motivated employees (with or without technical training) to fill manual vacancies.
Indirectly, NEP targets institutions that are interested in setting-up new or improving existing placement services: NEP, with GIZ support, developed a set of “enabling tools” (e.g. standard operating procedures, tailor-made software and database, capacity building, quality assurance). NEP transfers its operational know-how to selected partner institutions. NEP has prepared itself to up-scale the professional matchmaking and placement service through existing institutions that have a genuine interest in providing these services. These can be, for example, private sector institutions like the Investors’ Associations, whose Regional Labour Market Observatories identified human resources as a major bottleneck or it can be NGOs close to the target group of youth, if they are financially sustainable.
In the formal sector, there are more vacant positions than jobseekers motivated to take up blue-collar work. Apart from the low social prestige of manual work (and sometimes poor working conditions), jobseekers often choose informal over formal employment for its flexibility (no supervisors, flexible working hours, relaxed code of conduct) and for its seemingly higher pay-offs (in the short run). Many jobseekers, particularly women, favour public over private sector employment for its higher stability, security, and maternity leave entitlements. Young labour market entrants rarely have long-term career strategies in place. They are not aware of the risks involved in the informal economy and not informed about how limited prospects for employment in the public sector have become in the past two decades. Consequently, formal employers struggle to fill decent blue-collar vacancies, which hampers manufacturing and service industries significantly.
Against this background, the objective of NEP is to reach out to jobseekers and to private sector employers to bring them closer together, enhancing mutual understanding, trust and reliability. Bridging the tremendous human resource gap contributes to both, economic and social policy goals: It supports employers to find and hire motivated bluecollar workers and to increase staff retention and productivity, while it provides youth access to existing job opportunities and helps them find suitable, fair and decent employment in growing manufacturing and service industries.
A private placement service like NEP, obviously, focuses on matching and placement:
NEP identifies decent vacancies, reaches out to attract young jobseekers, pre-selects and matches candidates with its refined software and database, nominates them to suitable employers for job interviews and follows-up the hiring process.
Informing young jobseekers about labour market developments and preparing them for formal employment is as important for successful placements as is the filtering and matching process. Job seekers, who are perceived as unfit for work (e.g. because of unrealistic expectations or unprofessional conduct) are offered job preparation training. The two-day-training course covers topics like work ethics, job interview, effective communication, physical appearance, and others.
NEP Job scouts identify decent vacant positions, the NEP outreach to jobseekers-team supports jobseekers to consider manual jobs, to attend NEP employment events and to register with NEP. NEP employment officers interview jobseekers and use the refined tailor-made matchmaking software and database to pre-select and nominate candidates for job interviews with employers, and to monitor and follow-up the hiring process.
Data (profiles of jobseekers, employers, and vacancies) is collected with a tailor-made software and fed into the NEP database. The database contains extensive data on jobseekers’ profiles (over 50,000 have been interviewed and registered since 2011), employers (over 800 companies), and about 70,000 vacancies as well as other data for analysis, learning, and reporting.
The software supports the matchmaking by pre-selecting candidates against basic criteria (e.g. age requirement, distance between place of residence and workplace, salary expectations, educational attainment). The final matchmaking and placing, however, can only be done by professionals in personal contact with both candidates and human resource staff.
Many jobseekers require the short (two days) job preparation training before they can be nominated for job interviews. The software records how often a candidate was nominated and with what results. This helps identify those candidates who repeatedly fail to attend interview appointments.
Employers whose vacancies do not meet the decent workplace requirements are not registered. Minimum basic standards must be met to be serviced. Jobs are decent when the employer provides a work contract, safe and healthy working conditions, social and medical insurance, and a fair salary.
All processes relevant to establish and operate an NEP Employment Centre have been broken down into succinct and transparent “Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)”. The SOP manuals consolidate NEP expertise to guide all core processes. These help maintain effective operations in periods of staff turnover, are a reference point for quality assurance mechanisms (audits) and ease the structured transfer of NEP knowledge to partner institutions.
There are eight categories of SOPs with some examples:
- Within the category ‘administration, finance, management’, there are SOPs for budget preparation, procurement procedures, how to welcome jobseekers and how to answer the phone, for example.
- Regarding the ‘Job Scouts’ work, SOPs cover, for example, conducting field visits, registering companies and managing companies’ contributions to employment fairs.
- There are SOPs for jobseekers ‘outreach’ work, such as field promotional activities, announcing vacancies on social media or orientation and coordination of volunteers for employment fairs.
- Under ‘Job Preparation’ one can find SOPs for setting up training appointments or for reporting.
- ‘Employment Officers’ are supported with SOPs for interviewing jobseekers, registering vacancies, handling complaints from jobseekers about companies, etc.
- The ‘monitoring & evaluation’-SOPs process instructions for following-up hired jobseekers, internal auditing, or revising data bank entries.
- Examples for ‘scaling up’ SOPs are compliance management, capacity building for partners, periodical follow-up and auditing.
- ‘General’ SOPs refer to internal processes like managing cleaning and maintenance, fire drills, first aid, and include the updating of existing and creation of new SOPs.
NEP operates one wholly owned employment centre and has helped establish, so far (end of 2017) four additional placement service centres in partnership with Investors’ Associations and Chambers in Egypt, three of which are sustainably operative. The NEP employment centre and main office employs 37 permanent staff, all qualified with a certified Employment Officer Training course programme.
The Employment Officer qualification programme was developed by GIZ (based on existing German employment officer courses) and certified by a German Chamber of Commerce (IHK Ostbrandenburg). It entails 21 training days in theory, practice, and 2 additional days of written, oral and group work examinations. After the first three courses were implemented by GIZ, the training and examination components were handed over to NEP in 2017. NEP signed a cooperation agreement with the German Chamber of Commerce Frankfurt/Oder to offer the training and examinations in Egypt on behalf of and in full compliance with all quality standards and regulations of the German Chamber.
The NEP’s main centre uses about half of its capacities to operate its own matchmaking and placement services. The other half of its resources are utilised for the following activities: implement capacity building programmes for partner institutions, transfer NEP knowledge to these institutions as part of its up-scaling strategy, conduct monitoring, evaluation, and quality assurance of its own and partner institutions’ services, develop products and services generating revenues for financial sustainability, and to consult and implement development projects for international development organisations.
NEP serves as a knowledge hub to disseminate the model across the country. To this end, NEP has developed „Enabling Tools“ and procedures:
- A capacity building programme for partner service providers including theoretical and practical training covering
- employment officer tasks (5 days for the matchmaking methodology),
- job scouting (2 days),
- jobseekers outreach (1 day),
- monitoring, evaluation, and reporting (2 days)
As partner employment centres start small, with about three to four members of staff, each one takes on multiple responsibilities in the beginning.
- the matchmaking software and database;
- in service training and development of partner centres by NEP experts seconded for up to four months to the new service providers, supporting them to set up organisational structures, facilities, and processes;
- the comprehensive set of SOPs (the partner handbook);
- as well as continued technical support (consulting on issues arising during operations, referring to centre management, organising job fairs, monitoring and reporting, software and databank, etc.)
Direct matchmaking and placement services for jobseekers and employers are following well defined procedures at the employment centres and job fairs. The NEP methodology starts with outreach work at both ends of the labour market (outreach to and screening of jobseekers as well as to employers for verification of decency and specification of blue collar vacancies) and stays in close contact with both clients from the beginning to the end and after the hiring process:
- Outreach to jobseekers: Identifying and attracting jobseekers to decent manual work opportunities in the formal sector (through Job Fairs, street campaigns, information flyers, NGO partner networks, social and other media)
- In parallel outreach to employers to identify (and advocate for) decent employment opportunities (through investors’ associations’ networks, telephones, company visits, emails, etc.)
- All jobseekers who are between 18 and 35 years of age and have completed or are exempted from military obligations are interviewed and registered on the NEP database by employment officers.
- Jobseekers who appear not to be ready to work in the formal sector (e.g. not properly dressed and lacking professional conduct, unrealistic expectations) are offered a job preparation training of two days before being nominated.
- Companies and all their vacancies are registered to the database, if they comply with the NEP decent work criteria, sign the Decent Work agreement with NEP and fill out the NEP vacancy form.
- Jobseekers are screened against vacancies. Employment officers contact jobseekers with matching profiles for their availability and inform them about the vacancy and the application procedure (paperwork, interview appointments, expected start of contract, etc.). Suitable and interested candidates are shortlisted and nominated (sent to the employer for job interviews).
- NEP stays in close contact with jobseekers (to track who has showed up for the interview) and with employers (to monitor interview results). NEP staff may take part in the job interview or ask employers to send feedback: Did candidates come to the interview appointment? Were any of them accepted? What were the reasons for rejection?
- If the interview went well for both parties, and the applicant agreed to the conditions and has sent all required documents, he or she signs the employment contract. Upon written placement confirmation by the employer, the case is closed. Except for the follow-up services, which include:
- Tracking placed workers within a week after placement (did the employee start work?), after one month (is the salary paid as has been contractually agreed?), after three months (was the employee registered for social insurance?), after six months (to monitor staff retention) and thenevery six months. Follow-up produces extensive data for analysis and learning.
- Talking to employers about their contentedness with the service and conducting customer satisfaction survey at least once per year)
Employment Events Job fairs have proven to be a very effective instrument for matchmaking and placements, and monthly ‘mini fairs’ have become standard in every centre. Job fairs exclusively for women (conducted in cooperation with the Arab Women Enterprise Fund) are successfully addressing female labour force participation. A job fair typically starts with a very short overview (what the employment event is about, which jobs are available, and what stages will the participant go through) for jobseekers.
Job seeking visitors fill in application forms at the reception desk. They get informed immediately if the jobs they are looking for are offered on that event. Jobseekers are introduced to the specific jobs on offer that day and informed about general terms of contracts (e.g. salary, coverage of transport costs, working hours). They are registered on the database. Interested jobseekers are referred to specific employers with suitable vacancies to talk to human resource managers who are present at the fair. This expectation management helps filter those jobseekers that are potential hires for the exhibiting companies. Only those who find the jobs and terms acceptable and match the job criteria will proceed to a job interview with the respective employer. Feedback is collected at the exit desk: How many employers did the jobseekers meet and with what outcomes?
Job Preparation Training
Not all jobseekers are ready for placement which may become apparent during the registration interview at NEP if, for example, jobseekers fail to keep appointments, dress inappropriately, cannot present themselves, or have very unrealistic expectations. Those who need to be informed about the code of conduct in formal work settings, and who need support to prepare for the job interview are offered the Job Preparation Training of two days duration before being nominated to employers. The training deals with work ethics, transferable skills, positive and effective communication and active listening, in- /acceptable reasons for absence from the workplace and why notifying the employer is important, physical appearance and workplace behaviours, dealing with feedback, how to prepare for and succeed in the job interview, and what to do and to avoid in the first week of work in the new job.
Facilities and physical resources
- Employment centres with a front-office reception desk and receptionist for informing clients, and
- with a well-structured waiting area that can hold up to 100 to 200 visitors per day, where mini job fairs can be conducted and with a large screen for informational video clips running (to shorten waiting time and to inform visitors).
- Training room which can hold about 15 – 20 people and equipment (chairs, desks, flipcharts, laptop, beamer)
- Ideally, an additional meeting room, for staff meetings, visiting delegations on study tours, or partner institution workshops.
- Back offices for employment officers to conduct interviews, make phone calls, or write reports; equipped with desks, chairs, computers, printers, telephones, internet.
- Back offices for management and administrative staff
- Storage room for equipment, supplies, and also for documents and archives.
- Public bathrooms and staff bathrooms (gender segregated)
- One common kitchen and staff room
Structuring and equipping facilities for their functions, makes an operational difference. A manual with a best practice model of an employment centre office incl. room design and furniture concepts, is being produced by GIZ LMAP.
Qualified Human Resources
NEP (as an employment centre and as an organisation) employs 37 highly qualified permanent full-time staff with one general manager (dealing with legal issues, hosting Steering Committee Meetings, managing partner relations, representing NEP) and with strong management teams: Two managers lead the team for operations (employment officers, job scouts, outreach team, job preparation trainers) and one leader per team for supporting departments (such as organisational and human resource development , administration and finance, monitoring and evaluation including quality assurance and auditing, scaling-up, business development, and projects management). Partner centres usually start smaller. They employ about three to six members of staff, usually one centre manager, one trainer, one to four employment officers who are in charge of both jobseeker outreach and job scouting. All NEP staff are qualified with the ‘Employment Officer Course’, developed by GIZ based on German experiences. The course is modelled on a selection of training offered by the University of Applied Labour Studies, Germany (which trains Federal German Employment Agency staff) and by the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce. It has been redeveloped to fit the Egyptian labour market, legal and cultural context and is certified by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
- NEP software and databases with all templates for registering jobseekers, employers, and decent vacancies allows for high-quality service in significant numbers and supports monitoring and reporting as it continuously gives accurate periodical and cumulative figures.
- Social media for outreach to jobseekers (e.g. Facebook and YouTube channel “National Employment Pact” where video clips with occupational information and videos with tips for applicants are posted and shared with other service providers (also used for career education in technical secondary schools in Egypt).
Four employment centres are established, one of them run by the NEP head office with qualified and certified full-time staff and another three partner centres with their own staffing.
A catalogue of Standard Operating Procedures is produced with simple graphic illustrations to guide operations, interface management, and staff performance.
A quality assurance mechanism based on regular audits (against SOPs) is established:
- First party-audit: Self-audit of the NEP head office once per year (minimum).
- Second party-audit: Partner centres are audited at least once per year by the NEP head office audit team.
- Third party-audit: An independent consultant is hired to audit the NEP head office once per year.
800 registered employers are receiving services powered by NEP methodology and technology.
Over 8,700 successful placements recorded since 2011. Numbers are growing steadily with quick growth in the beginning and constant growth since employment centres were established with partners. While in 2012, two placements were made per work day, this was increased to seven placements per work day (across all centres).
Over 7,200 jobseekers have been trained with the job preparation programme since 2011.
Around 150 job fairs have been conducted and evaluated.
An extensive data- and experience base is constantly used for learning and improving: Until end of 2017, for example, two studies analysed retention rates and the impact on the livelihoods of placed jobseekers in relation to factors such as economic sector, company, region, age, sex, and/or educational attainment of jobseekers.
NEP has firstly developed and tailored its methods, procedures, tools, and materials to the Egyptian labour market context, and secondly, standardised them. Standardisation and documentation of all core processes is important for the knowledge management, quality assurance and up-scaling services.
Generating revenues is important for the financial sustainability of employment services and for scaling up the employment centre model with partners across the country to have a more significant social impact. Taking on a business-like thinking in value propositions is key for product innovation, marketing, partnerships and sustainability. “Value proposition” means that providers need to review and analyse the benefits of its (planned) services from the perspective of the customer or partner.
Placing jobseekers in blue collar jobs is a tedious business. Many jobseekers drop out of the placement process due to multiple reasons at the different stages, e.g. unreliability, burdensome paperwork, non-acceptance of the offered salaries, low image of manual work in general, social pressure, etc. After refining the outreach, matching and nomination process, the NEP is now able to place two out of ten nominated candidates into employment. This must be considered a positive rate, which can only be achieved when processes are well refined. Information, preparation and pre-selection take time and effort as well as good customer relations.
Job fairs have proven to be a very effective placement tool as the processes of informing, filtering, job-interviews and placement are not interrupted and, therefore, completed in a comparatively short time (to the benefit of all involved stakeholders, the jobseeker, the employer, and the placement service provider).
Mr. Christian Wachsmuth
GIZ Labour Market Access Programme (LMAP)
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