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Google launches new initiative to support Palestinian tech entrepreneurs


Google announced today the launch of the Palestine Launchpad program, a capacity-building program aimed at helping Palestinian graduates, app developers and tech entrepreneurs advance their digital skills and find employment.  This is part of the $10 million initiative announced by Google in March 2022 to support the Palestinian tech ecosystem to advance its digital skills and find jobs.

Palestine Launchpad is co-designed with Udacity, a market leader in talent transformation, and SPARK, an international NGO that offers higher vocational education and entrepreneurship development. The program which starts in 2023 until 2026, aims to graduate 3500 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.  The program is designed to address gaps in talent and employment based on research conducted with local universities and associations. The program covers three pillars-  capacity building, mentorship and employment matching.

Capacity Building: A 16-week hybrid program run by instructors and educators from Udacity that will offer beginning and advanced technical skills and soft skills. 

Advanced Nanodegree:  Tracks will cover (1) Web development (2) AI engineering and (3) Data analysis. Examples of courses include Intro to Programming, Programming for Data Science, and AI Programming with Python. The courses will cover Google technologies like machine learning platform,  Tensor Flow, as well as other technologies.  These courses are designed to equip people for future jobs such as Machine Learning Engineering, Data Science and Mobile App Developement.

Soft skills: Courses will cover topics that are essential for any type of employment or entrepreneurship such as building a resume, preparing for a job interview and how to give an elevator pitch. 

Group and Individual Mentorship: Throughout the duration of the course, students will have access up to 100 hours of 1-1 and group mentorship by local and regional instructors from Udacity, in-person and virtual. After graduation, students can request additional mentorship and career orientation. In-person community events with local universities and associations will also be held bi-monthly for students to share and learn from one another. 

Employment matching & internship placement: Job and internship placement opportunities in local and regional companies will be offered to top performing students. SPARK and local outreach partners will hold four job fairs in three years and will join employers and candidates for networking and job opportunities. 

Najeeb Jarrar, Regional Marketing Director for Google in MENA, said: “We are committed to helping Palestinian graduates, app developers and tech entrepreneurs with the digital skills they need to succeed and to facilitate access to jobs and employment. Google has long been supporting Palestinians through digital skills initiatives like Maharat min Google, Coursera licenses / Google Career Certificates. We’ve also worked in collaboration with global and local partners like Udacity, SPARK, Kiva, Amideast, Gaza Sky Geeks and others.”

Kai Roemmelt, CEO of Udacity, said: “We are dedicated to enhancing the lives of Palestinian Youth through this scholarship program designed to upskill 3,500 graduates upon the conclusion of the scholarship. With this tech endeavor, we hold the belief that Palestinian youth will gain priceless knowledge and skills, equipping them for success in the job market.”

Dina Almasaeid, Country Manager for Spark in Palestine, said: “The Palestine Launchpad program directly addresses the pressing skills gap among our youth. Guided by our needs assessment, program topics align with the real demands of our community. By focusing on these essential skills, we are dedicated to narrowing the gap and alleviating unemployment. Through initiatives like these, we are not just preparing our youth for jobs – we are preparing them to be catalysts of change, drivers of economies, and leaders of communities.”

The first cohort of the Palestine Launchpad program started in March 2023. Six hundred fifty students enrolled and half of them are women. 

As per the World Bank, there is high education literacy within the Palestinian ecosystem (85% of founders in the tech ecosystem have a university degree and 27% have a graduate degree). There are 1,500 ICT graduates in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza every year. According to Portland Trust, the tech sector’s contribution to the Palestinian economy in the last decade was 5-7% of GDP, with an average of $543.5 million of value-add. According to USAID,  50% of ICT graduates are unemployed. 

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