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UNRWA Brings the Cisco Networking Academy to Refugees

When employers are looking for graduates—they know the [UNRWA] students have been really hands on and enjoy working in the lab, and they are working on the latest equipment all the time.

Nevine ElKadi, manager of Cisco learning and development, Middle East

Four generations of Palestinian refugees have received support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) since 1950. To foster independence, UNRWA and Cisco Networking Academy launched a partnership to prepare Palestinian youth for technology careers. A 96% hire rate in Jordan is proof of their success.

Preparing refugees for IT careers

Palestinian refugees who receive UNRWA support often lack the education and skills to apply for jobs that lead to stable careers and advancement out of poverty.

As the IT sector grew in the UNRWA’s hosting countries and the Arabian Gulf Region, UNRWA saw an opportunity to prepare youth, particularly women, for entry-level IT positions. 

  • UNRWA, the largest UN organization in the Middle East, has provided services to four generations of refugees from the Palestinian territories since 1950
  • Five million Palestinian refugees receive education, health, relief, and social services from UNRWA in Jordan, Syria, Gaza, West Bank, and Lebanon
  • 2-year programs at UNRWA vocational training centers prepare refugees for the workforce

A thriving workforce-readiness program

In 2001, the first Cisco Networking Academy opened at Wadi Seer Training Center in Jordan to test the possibility of a vocational IT program for refugees. By 2014, the program had expanded to nine UNRWA vocational training centers, with an internship and advanced courses in security and wireless technology.

The rigorous 2-year program prepares students for networking and IT-related careers and higher education in engineering, computer science, and related fields. 

  • 400 refugee students attend the program each year
  • Nine vocational training centers operated by UNRWA offer IT Essentials and Cisco CCNA courses in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, and Gaza
  • Cisco provides in-kind contributions of training, support, curriculum updates, and equipment
  • The UNWRA Education IT Unit is a Cisco Academy Support Center
  • A 4- to 8-week internship prepares students for the workplace

Creating a demand for talent

Graduates of the UNRWA program have earned an excellent reputation with hiring companies throughout the region. Potential employers value the hands-on work students gain from using the latest equipment in the up-to-date UNRWA labs.

UNRWA operates 150 secondary schools for Palestinian refugees and is piloting a summer camp program to extend IT training to younger students.

  • 4500 Palestinian youth have graduated from Cisco Academy program since 2001
  • 35% of participants are women who report increased confidence and comfort with IT
  • 96% of graduates in Jordan and 80% in Gaza get jobs throughout the UNRWA hosting countries and Arabian Gulf within one year

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