Edtech Insiders

Connecting Education and Employment in the Middle East and Africa with Andrew Baird of EFE

June 27, 2022 Alex Sarlin Season 2 Episode 26
Connecting Education and Employment in the Middle East and Africa with Andrew Baird of EFE
Edtech Insiders
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Edtech Insiders
Connecting Education and Employment in the Middle East and Africa with Andrew Baird of EFE
Jun 27, 2022 Season 2 Episode 26
Alex Sarlin

Andrew Baird is the President & CEO of the global hub of Education For Employment (EFE-Global). Andrew brings to EFE more than twenty-five years of experience in advancing private sector-led strategies to create inclusive employment and livelihoods around the world - including in several countries where EFE operates. He is a strong advocate for women’s economic employment, and promoting entrepreneurship. He co-founded the Global Center for Youth Employment, a membership-based organisation devoted to developing collective solutions to the challenges of youth employment. He has held leadership positions in a range of organisations in the field and home offices of RTI International, Making Cents International, and the Peace Corps. 

For those interested in engaging with EFE as a mentor, or lending their expertise to the youth EFE serves, reach out at info@efe.org

To discuss edtech solutions to address the youth employment and education challenges faced in the MENA, reach out to abaird@efe.org.

Recommended Resources
Middle East Focus, a podcast by the Middle East Institute

Show Notes Transcript

Andrew Baird is the President & CEO of the global hub of Education For Employment (EFE-Global). Andrew brings to EFE more than twenty-five years of experience in advancing private sector-led strategies to create inclusive employment and livelihoods around the world - including in several countries where EFE operates. He is a strong advocate for women’s economic employment, and promoting entrepreneurship. He co-founded the Global Center for Youth Employment, a membership-based organisation devoted to developing collective solutions to the challenges of youth employment. He has held leadership positions in a range of organisations in the field and home offices of RTI International, Making Cents International, and the Peace Corps. 

For those interested in engaging with EFE as a mentor, or lending their expertise to the youth EFE serves, reach out at info@efe.org

To discuss edtech solutions to address the youth employment and education challenges faced in the MENA, reach out to abaird@efe.org.

Recommended Resources
Middle East Focus, a podcast by the Middle East Institute

Alexander Sarlin:

Welcome to Ed Tech insiders. In this podcast we talk to educators and educational technology investors, thought leaders, founders and operators about the most interesting and exciting trends in the field. I'm your host, Alex Sarlin, an educational technology veteran with over a decade of work and leading edtech companies. Andrew Baird is the president and CEO of the global hub of education for employment, or efe global. Andrew brings EFE more than 25 years of experience in advancing private sector led strategies to create inclusive employment and livelihoods around the world including in several countries where efe operates. He is a strong advocate for women's economic employment and for promoting entrepreneurship. he co founded the Global Center for Youth employment, a membership based organization devoted to developing collective solutions to the challenges of youth employment. He has also held leadership positions in a range of organizations in the field and home offices of RTI International, making sense International, and the Peace Corps. For those interested in engaging with education for employment as a mentor to youth in the Middle East and North Africa, or in lending your expertise to the youth they serve, reach out at info@efe.org. And to discuss edtech solutions from your company or others that could address the youth employment and education challenges faced in the Middle East or North Africa, reach out to a baird@efe.org. And you're very welcome to Tech insiders.

Andrew Baird:

Thanks, Alex. It's really good to be here. I'm a fan of what you're doing.

Alexander Sarlin:

And it's great to have you so. So Andrew, education for employment, also known as efe is a leading nonprofit that trains youth and links them to jobs and employment across the Middle East and North Africa. That's a region that we sometimes call Mena, in business world, Middle East and North Africa. How did you get into the employment and training field generally? And how did you get into it in such a specific and interesting region of the world?

Andrew Baird:

That's a good question. So I really came into the employment space through, I would say, my initial introduction into the development world, which was spending three years living in a mud hut in Cameroon. And I was a Peace Corps volunteer right out of undergraduate. And I think I early on, as many do noted that there was great talent and not a lot of opportunity. And so education, employment opportunities were really lacking. And it's an area that I just pursued the rest of my career. Now for the specific region of the world. I was introduced to the Middle East at a young age, my parents were college professors, and they lead groups of university students to the Middle East for semesters. So I got an introduction to the region fell in love with it and have been working in and out of it for much of the past 40 years.

Alexander Sarlin:

It's a fascinating region with so many different social elements happening at any given time. You are obviously the total expert on this region. But I did a little bit of research about some of it from about Amina from the World Bank in terms of their education, employment, facts, stats, and I wanted to just drop a few facts for our listeners just to set the stage about what's so unique about this region. And Andrew, you know, you can go much deeper than these. But, you know, in the Arab countries, you have a population where 60% of the population is under 25, which makes it one of the most youthful regions in the world, the median age is 22, compared to a global average of 28. And in many countries, it's higher than that. You also have very high education enrolment rates with almost universal primary schooling and almost 70% enrollment at the secondary level. That's, you know, high school we usually call and 41 to 42% of students, it goes up and down enrolling, it's actually been pretty flat for the last few years, enrolling in college. And that's actually just about the same as what we see in the US which where we have about 40% of 18 to 24 year olds enrolling in college, so you have lots of education and lots of higher education, but the region has 10% unemployment, youth constitute half of the total unemployed region. So we have this region where lots and lots of young people who are getting an education at least a secondary and often a college education, but then still facing some of the highest youth unemployed Imagine the world. So that's about all I know about it. Andrew, fill us in on what is going on in the Middle East. Why is this dynamic happening?

Andrew Baird:

Well, Alex, you've hit exactly on the, the paradox that efe was founded to address. And that is the very high rate of education, simultaneous with this high rate of youth unemployment. And while there's 10% unemployment rate in the region, as you pointed out, for youth, it's two to three times that. And for women, it's four times that. So the Middle East does continue to be the hardest place on earth for youth to get their first job or to get a job. So we are really looking at a number of factors that contribute to creating that paradox. And one is one that's been studied quite a bit. And that's the mismatch between what the educational institutions are providing in terms of their education and what the labor market is demanding. In the employment sector. There's very little communication that goes on between education and training providers, and the private sector, employer partners. So one of our roles is to try to bridge that gap. There are also social and cultural reasons that contribute to that several of the countries describe this as the culture of shame. And what that is, is quite simply, there are certain sectors, which are deemed to be inappropriate for youth to work in for families to work in. parents don't want their children to work, for example, in maybe retail establishments, the hospitality industry really suffers from this perception, construction. So we're also trying to break down these barriers so that people see these as viable employment alternatives, and maybe first steps to other things.

Alexander Sarlin:

So it sounds like the service sector or construction sort of labor is not seen as a viable route to productive employment for so many youth. And then I would imagine that the routes that are viable, are the jobs that don't hold that culture of shame, there just aren't enough positions, or is it that the youth can't get them for other reasons?

Andrew Baird:

Yeah. So there certainly are not enough of those positions. And when you go back, you know, a generation, the kind of social contract was that when you receive your university education, you are trapped into a government job. And so while that perception is not nearly as strong as it was, there's still some of that that lingers. And so that's certainly one constraint is that there are much fewer jobs, and then just simply the mismatch in what are the skills that are required to take those maybe more career oriented jobs, our youth are not emerging from the educational institutions with those skills,

Alexander Sarlin:

that gap between the skills that employers are looking for and the skills that graduates of higher education come out with? I don't think that is unique to the MENA region.

Andrew Baird:

Absolutely not worldwide, you can find it half a mile from where I'm sitting in Washington, DC. Yeah.

Alexander Sarlin:

You know, it's so interesting to hear you talking about the interplay between, you know, governments used to sort of guarantee jobs for college graduates. Now, it's the private sector, but the private sector and the education system don't communicate that much. One of the dynamics that we've heard from employment programs is that the two types of skills that employers are really desperate for are high demand, technical skills, and soft skills. Some people call those durable skills or success skills, even essential skills. That means things like communication, time management, critical thinking, the ability to collaborate, how does efe think about this sort of high demand technical skill versus soft skill spectrum? And how does it address it for its population? Great question.

Andrew Baird:

efe really focuses on those, what I like to call it the essential skills. And precisely as you were describing them, the leadership skills, conflict resolution, time management. These are the skills which again, this is not unique to the region, you can ask employers around the world and those are skills that are in high demand and often missing. The technical skills we address in different ways and very dependent upon the sector. So we are never going to become training experts in all areas. So we can on partnerships with training institutions that might have expertise in automotive mechanics, and we provide, and of those work place workforce readiness skills that we were just describing. So our partnerships very often assume that the technical skills can come through either the employer or partner with their own training programs. They emerge with some of the right technical skills from training institutions, or we can partner with institutions that get them. We on the other hand, we're really focused on these other sets of skills, which are sure harder to develop in a short amount of time, quite frankly, and should be part of the educational system from the beginning, often or not. And I guess I would just go on to say that that is one of EFPs ultimate objectives is to transform the educational systems such that youth are getting these and in essence, EF E's role in this labor market intermediation is no longer required? Yeah,

Alexander Sarlin:

I want to come back to that question of why existing educational institutions don't teach these essential skills and how they might do that. But it is an edtech podcast. So we haven't taught technology yet. I'd love to hear how Efv thinks about the role of technology in delivering this type of essential skills training, or the tactical training to your population of youth. Let's start there, what is the role of technology,

Andrew Baird:

there's an enormous role. And I think efe, quite frankly, is only beginning to scratch the surface. We as many organizations in this space, or tossed into the EdTech world quite dramatically with the onset of the pandemic. Previously, the vast majority of our training was face to face in person training, that no longer being possible, we quickly moved into the EdTech space, looking for the right kind of learning management system, and ended up not finding it. So maybe we can talk a bit about that as well. But we certainly moved as quickly as we could, within three months, we were doing online classes, virtual synchronous training, and then moving towards asynchronous types of programs as well. So we've got about two years of experience in doing that, it has transformed quite frankly, what we are able to do. And I say that all sincerity, in a couple of ways. One, we're able to reach populations that previously we were not able to reach. So if you look at our Egypt office, for example, all of our training was really centered around Cairo, maybe venturing out as far as Alexandria. Now, we have conducted training in every government province in the country over the last two years. So that's, I think, a really critical component to what we're able to do. For women. This provides opportunities where maybe families had some hesitancy to have their daughters, their sisters attend an in person training, not knowing who is there, if they would be interacting with men in a virtual space, we can do that with much more safety for them and peace of mind for their families. So I think that's opened up the doors for populations as well, we have been able to get deeper into refugee settings through the use of technology. And then the last thing I would say is that certainly we're looking at where it can create efficiencies and what we are doing. So we're kind of finding the right balance between in person and synchronous and asynchronous training, figuring out what works best and will continue to work on that equation.

Alexander Sarlin:

I think the story you're telling of a in person training program that had to turn on a dime during the beginning, especially of the COVID pandemic and figure out new delivery methods, and then started to discover some of the benefits of virtual training or even hybrid training, in terms of reaching new learners and being able to leverage different kinds of assets is one that many of our listeners will resonate with, whether they're in the EdTech world or the higher education world or any kind of training learning role. I'm curious now that the pandemic has at least beginning to show signs of slowing down. Do you see virtual or hybrid training as a core part of your delivery strategy because of all the benefits? Or do you anticipate you're going to head back to in person at some point,

Andrew Baird:

I think it will remain a core part of what we do. Again, I think we're trying to find the balance. And my guess is that where we are heading is probably having some hybrid model where there are certain types of activities, which we get great efficiency and benefit by doing maybe in an asynchronous manner and self paced learning. And then there are just some things which still standing face to face, looking somebody in the eye, particularly when you're learning these essential skills, communication, leadership, etc, how to work on a team, it's just much easier to do that in person. So I'm actually looked this morning to kind of see the balance of our training across the network, and 70% of our trainings that are going on are some sort of blended approach at this point. So that expect that will remain that,

Alexander Sarlin:

yeah, that makes sense. And I think that's probably a good estimate of where a lot of different programs are going to end up where there'll be some virtual, some fully in person, but a lot may be blended. So try to get the benefit of both approaches. You mentioned something very interesting, which is that, you know, as you had to pivot to online, you wanted to use a learning management system, but you weren't able to find one that sort of met the needs of your organization and your learners. And, you know, now that we've discussed that, you know, one of the major needs of your organization and your learners is the ability to deliver essential skills, leadership, communication, time management, teamwork, I would love to hear how you thought about the requirements for that LMS. And what you sort of found lacking in the existing providers, there may be people on this call from some of the major LMSs in the world. And I think they'd love to hear how an organization like yours sees the requirements, or an LMS that teaches essential skills.

Andrew Baird:

Let's take a quick break. And then all of a sudden, Facebook got in there very cleverly, and they gave people free phones, which they couldn't afford anyway, with Facebook built into it. And now all of a sudden, the world's opening up and of course, you're gonna believe what you see on this amazing technology, right? And they were warned over and over again, that this was being misused in order to prosecute a genocide on the part of extreme Buddhists and the government. Right, the UN actually said that Facebook had facilitated a genocide in Myanmar, and what happened to them? Nothing? Great question. There were a couple of key requirements that kind of from the beginning, were guiding our search. And at first, I will say, my mandate to the team was find something let's not build something, there is so much investment in this space. And we need to leverage that where where we can. So that was certainly the mentality that we had going out into this search. So specific requirements included language capability. So we were English, Arabic, and French, and Arabic, kind of was a filter that filtered out quite a few of the learning management platforms that we were looking at originally. Now many of them could host Arabic language materials, but the menus themselves could not be converted into Arabic. So that was an issue. A second, I think, equally important requirement for us was that because we are an affiliated network, we have, in essence, almost nine different administrators that are focused on utilization of the platform and being able to build courses and need to do so quickly. So kind of that admin access and being able to really almost democratize the usage of the LMS was another one. And again, we found that that many were much more restrictive and had to go through a number of hoops in order to be able to build a program and was not able to do it quickly. A third one was student registration. So we were looking for one, which when students registered for our classes, that then giving them access to materials was something that could be done by instructors themselves, and not only admin rights. So again, this was something else that we were having trouble really identifying and ultimately leading us to developing our own LMS I'm I still see the day when we won't be investing in that. And we'll be using something that has been created and fits all of our our needs.

Alexander Sarlin:

So I'm hearing that the requirements that your organization needed, weren't actually particular to the Essential Skills space, they were really more of the actual sort of technical requirements, the ability to support both English language and Arabic user interface, language and Arabic is right to left, which makes it super complex, I think, for technology to handle. And then some of these admin permissions that are sort of unique to the structure of your program where you have different groups of people who need to be able to access them. That's really interesting. And did you find anything, you know, that I imagine that some of the assignments that you do in person around things like leadership and teamwork involve collaboration or feedback on video, you find that the LMS is we're able mostly to handle that? Or did you have to sort of recreate that in your new, home grown LMS?

Andrew Baird:

I think a lot of the LMS is that we saw were providing good collaborative space. And frankly, we had to build our own work around with that. It's not integrated into our LMS. We have to use commercially available, whether it's teams or zoom or some other way to do that. And again, that's, we also found that to be an interesting challenge, because countries have a preference for which platforms they tend to use, and more comfortable with. So this enabled us to have the flexibility for that as well. But to your question about specific design considerations, for soft skills, essential skills, training, I do think it is what you are speaking about here, and that is that collaborative space. And there are some really good ones that we have been able to utilize that are commercially available, and kind of add them as add ons to what we have built.

Alexander Sarlin:

That's exciting to hear. I know that, you know, that focus on essential skills success skills is one that many organizations, especially those trying to work towards employment, have learned to focus on over the years. And it's good to hear that, that the EdTech landscape has at least some possible solutions in place. And I think that mix and match approach you're mentioning where you know, depending on what country you're in, if you're more accustomed to zoom or teams or a different platform, you can plug it in and connect using that and still use the same platform for other resources makes a lot of sense. That's something that I would imagine a lot of different organizations would love to get in place, if they they can, you know, one other aspect of the EFP program is mentoring. And mentoring is has become, you know, a pretty hot and interesting space in the tech world because it's found to be so powerful when it's done well, and we have access to all sorts of people now, including various types of mentors. tell our listeners a little bit about the role that mentoring plays in for employment and what you've learned about the value of mentoring in employment training for this region?

Andrew Baird:

Well, you're absolutely right, Alex, mentoring has an enormous impact. And lots of studies have shown the real gains that youth have when they're connected with a mentor, either as startup entrepreneurs, or beginning their career in a new position. So we are building our mentorship program initially around the entrepreneurship space, and beginning now to connect mentors to our youth going into employment. And certainly, we are taking great advantage of the technologies that are out there that enable us to connect mentors in the US with mentors, or with Mentees in Gaza, or from around the region. We have mentors who are based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia who are connecting with youth in Gaza, Palestine or in in other places. So it's an important aspect of what we're doing that we're growing. I think another aspect and you mentioned if it's done right, I think we're learning a lot of lessons about the engagements and how to really shape those engagements so that each one has a specific objective, and that the mentor and the mentee are at a mindset where they are both learners. And what we hear time and time again from our mentors is that they get more out of it than they I think they've given. So I think it's it's a tremendous program to be building one that we'll see a lot of impact from. And yes, technology is enabling us to match really, regardless of the geography. Yeah.

Alexander Sarlin:

If there are any listeners to the podcasts who might be interested in, in mentoring for the ENFP program, is that something you're open to

Andrew Baird:

we are absolutely open to all forms of mentors, we have different kinds of programs, our core program is 12 engagements over a six month period. But we've got opportunities for people who maybe want to just come in and do a brown bag lunch, talk about what they're doing. Here a little bit about the challenges that the youth are facing, provide their insights into a sector, or we might do something around a growing economic space in particular country. So expertise in solar energies or opportunities in the coding world or other things. Those are all via great interest to the youth that we serve. Let's take a quick break.

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Alexander Sarlin:

And that sounds fascinating. So we will definitely put links in the show notes, if anybody wants to connect with EFE as a potential mentor and help spread some knowledge to these amazing youth all around the world or in the Middle East in North Africa region. One more question about the mentoring space, you mentioned that, you know, women in this region often have less access to educational opportunities for various reasons and, and that unemployment is particularly high for female youth. How do you think about mentoring specifically for the female learners in your program? Do you try to make sure that they have female mentors or role models or aspirational figures that have sort of transcended any kind of barrier that other female youth might be seeing as they get their first, you know, job and career?

Andrew Baird:

Absolutely. So the paradox continues, women are actually educated at a higher rate than men in the region, particularly at the tertiary education level, yet, again, have the highest almost double the rate of men for unemployment. In the mentorship space, we provide them a choice. So many will say that they prefer to have a female mentor, others, not necessarily. And so we try to make sure that we're listening to what their specific needs and requests would be. But you touched on something that I think is critically important. And that's the role models, highlighting women who have been successful in a whole range of sectors. And so we do try to do that within the mentorship program, but also, and highlighting the stories of this success. We like we're very proud of the fact that of our CEOs in each country, 75% of them are women. So we're trying to live this as well.

Alexander Sarlin:

That's terrific to hear. And it makes sense that female youth sort of have a choice about whether they would want a female mentor or not, I think back to lean in to Sheryl Sandberg classic lean in book where she talked about how women may find male mentors actually very helpful and shouldn't always limit themselves but others, I think we'd get a lot out of out of seeing somebody who's further along the path and has faced some of the same, same barriers. So it's interesting and it makes a lot of sense to give people some autonomy and what they how they want to get get support. We've seen a lot of really interesting ad tech startups around the world that are working to sort of bridge that the similar gap that efe is taking on the idea of how do you get your first sort of real job that you you want the first job the first step in your career, whether or not you have the education background because the educated She has not always connected to it. And so we've seen, you know, apprenticeship programs, they just a big finance round announced yesterday for an apprenticeship program in England. We've seen externships, virtual internships, corporate boot camps, Co Op programs, where colleges, you know, send students to work for a part of their college experience so that when they finish their college experience, they already have work experience and connections and some of the essential skills, you know, under their belt. What has been your take on this sort of space around the world? Is there of any of these models of you know, boot camps and internships and employers paying for training for learners? Are there any of these models resonating with you for the MENA region or anything been inspiring to you in your work at EFE.

Andrew Baird:

So you're right, there are an awful lot of different models out there. And I think all of them contribute in some way, they're not all appropriate for all places, all circumstances, all populations. And so that's part of what the field is, is trying to sift out, we do do work with internships, and trying to create those linkages. But in some countries, it's very difficult because real or perceived, there is a perception that, once you take an intern, they almost have the same legal rights as an employee, and it's very difficult to get rid of them. So there's a hesitancy to take on formal interns. I think each of these kinds of programs that you described do have a place. What I would say, conversely, is that we have seen the unintended effects of some programs to distort the market for whether it's training, whether it's job placement, by donor communities, who in order to encourage employment, for example, might be willing to cover the first six months salary of a new employee as a part of a development program. Sounds great, you get a lot of people into jobs, it's a low risk for the employer. But now you have 20 different local organizations that are trying to make an impact in this space, that when they go to employers, asking for some sort of return or paying a portion of the cost of training or placing, they won't even let you in the door, because they'll wait for that donor that's going to pay them six months. And the numbers just don't work out. So there's many, many examples of kinds of market distortion, unintended effects that these programs need to, to watch out for, above and beyond. And of looking at the the appropriateness of some of the programs. But there are a lot of good ones out there.

Alexander Sarlin:

That's a really interesting take on it. And it makes sense that sometimes the good intentions may sort of muddy the model, and nobody knows who should be paying for what sometimes that actually can can backfire and make it more complex

Andrew Baird:

who pays for wedding education is one of the age old conundrums. So everyone agrees that for the most part, that the government takes responsibility for education up to a certain level. So whether that's primary or secondary, or whatever. And then when you move beyond that, is it the individual, is it the employer, while the employer is often willing to invest in highly specific technical skills that benefit them, and almost tie them to their organization or at least sector? They're not interested in subsidizing skills, which create a more mobile worker? So again, then whose responsibility is it to pay for those and that's where you would see the essential skills, the soft skills kind of falling into that category?

Alexander Sarlin:

That is a really interesting way to break it down. I don't think I've ever thought about it quite that way. I mean, you look at some of the apprenticeship programs in Europe, especially and they're exactly in the model, you said there'll be you know, car conglomerates, teaching people to do advanced auto mechanics. And they're clearly you know, they have a very vested interest in having more people who know how to do exactly that set of skills. If you go to school for advanced auto mechanics, you're very likely to become an auto mechanic, you know, or you're going to have to start over, but they aren't necessarily interested in teaching leadership ability or time management or some of the things that learners could then take and do anything with and that kind of generalizable skill is all The most important one, for students actually being able to succeed in a career,

Andrew Baird:

as they often say, in the workforce base. It's the technical skills that get you hired. And it's the soft skills that get you fired.

Alexander Sarlin:

Yeah, that's a really interesting way to way to put it very pithy. I wanted to ask, you know, you mentioned something really interesting earlier, and I wanted to loop back to it. This is probably our last formal question. But you said that, you know, the ultimate goal of efe is to actually change the education system itself and make it more cognizant and to address some of these issues that are leading to this massive youth unemployment problem. I'd love to just hear more about how, you know, an organization like efe is doing that and how other nonprofits are doing it. What does that movement look like? What would your ideal state be if the some of the tertiary schools in the MENA region actually understood this need and adapted to it? What would they be doing differently?

Andrew Baird:

So I'll answer that in two concrete ways. So in Morocco, for example, we are working with the technical vocational training system, and have begun to embed our programs within the schools. So here over the next couple of years, the idea is that several 100 of the technical vocational schools will be utilizing our curricula, we are focusing on issues such as quality control, how do we maintain the ability to make sure that the teachers who are delivering this are up to date and able to do so at the tertiary level, we have been working, for example, in Tunisia and Morocco as well with Career Centers, and helping them to build the programs to do what career centers are really designed to do in many ways and are simply not functioning that way. So we're chipping away at this. I think, ultimately, it's not something that you start in at the tertiary level, it's not something you even start at the secondary level, these are the types of skills that you should be being exposed to and practicing, probably from the beginning of your educational experience. So what does it look like? I think at the end of the day, what it looks like, ideally, is that these types of essential skills are not addressed separately, they're addressed as a part of the curriculum, they are addressed in your core skills. They are practice, whether it's, you know, working in teams, where you can practice leadership skills and critical thinking skills that can be done in a math class that can be done in a language class, it can be done in a tech class, that really explicitly focusing on these skills.

Alexander Sarlin:

I love the model of sort of marrying the essential skills to the delivery channels, which could be career centers, it could be universities, and to the technical delivery services, so that nobody sort of forgets that set of essential skills is really vital to addressing the unemployment crisis in the Middle East and everywhere. I wish you the best of luck there. And I hope that people are getting the message seeing those numbers, those incredibly high unemployment numbers, and I'm sure it has effects on people's lives all through the region. Hopefully, it will be, you know, continue to be a wake up call that these changes are needed.

Andrew Baird:

Absolutely Big changes are needed. And we're continuing to work towards them.

Alexander Sarlin:

So we end every interview with two questions. The first is, what do you see as one of the most exciting trends in the EdTech landscape generally, that you think our listeners should be aware of?

Andrew Baird:

From our perspective, I would say the ability to access educational opportunities, curricula, courses, materials, in local languages, Arabic, French others, that has been more difficult, native content being developed, there's definitely a push, and so access towards those. And so specifically, when we're looking at building programs around some of the green jobs that are growing in the region, having really good technical skills, and access to those materials is probably for me, one of the more exciting areas

Alexander Sarlin:

that's happening. Absolutely. I hope that one of the takeaways of this interview is that if people are thinking about localizing their user interfaces, creating native content for different regions that the need is really there. And there are people all over the world who are trying to enter you know, new fields and the more we can make it accessible, the better as a global edtech community. And our last question is what is one book or blog newsletter, you know, can be any kind of resource that you would recommend for somebody who wants to delve deeper into any of the subjects we talked about today.

Andrew Baird:

How about recommending a podcast on a podcast? So the Middle East Institute puts out a weekly podcast called Middle East focus. And it covers a whole range of of topics, this as well as many others. But I think it's a very interesting way to kind of understand at a deeper level, a lot of the issues that are facing the region and and many of the solutions that are coming out of it as well. So Middle East Institute's a nonpartisan think tank that has been around for a long time.

Alexander Sarlin:

Fantastic. As always, we will put a link to the Middle East Institute and for their weekly podcast, in the show notes for anybody who wants to find that through here. You can also of course, just Google it or find it at wherever your podcasts are where you're listening to this podcast. Fantastic suggestion. Andrew Barrick, thank you so much for all the work you're doing in this vital region where the future of the global population is getting trained right now. We really appreciate your time today. Thanks for listening to this episode of the EdTech insiders podcast. If you liked the episode, remember to subscribe on Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you're listening on Apple, please leave a rating and review so others can find the podcast. For more ed tech insiders content subscribe to the Ed Tech insiders newsletter at ed tech insiders.substack.com