MIT Open Learning
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MIT Open Learning

Na’amal and MIT ReACT prepare talented refugees for the modern global workforce

A slide reading “Optimising Workflows” on an online meeting showing participants of different nationalities and ethnicities.
MIT ReACT learners participated in a recent online Work Readiness program given by Na’amal.

MIT ReACT

Companies have increasingly found that business success largely depends on having employees with skills such as clear communication, insights about others and empathetic leadership. Changes to the work landscape and increased remote work due to Covid-19 has only exacerbated the need for these non-technical skills abilities. The World Economic Forum (WEF) stated in their 2020 Future of Jobs Report that employers see increased importance of these soft skills, including critical thinking, analysis, and problem-solving, in addition to skills in self-management including active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. Yet, these valuable soft skills rarely feature within education systems, including in higher education, which still focuses primarily on the transmission of knowledge. The inability of many to adapt to new ways of working caused by the necessary shift toward remote models due to Covid-19 has highlighted the need to focus on these soft skills.

While the flood of remote work has challenged companies and professionals, it has also presented a vital opportunity for refugees and other marginalized or under-represented communities to access employment. However, the potential opened by the increase in remote work has yet to be fully realized, due to unequal opportunity and gaps in current education models, particularly for these populations. In order to bridge these gaps, the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) have joined forces with Na’amal and Paper Airplanes to enable a network of holistic support for refugee learners participating in the MIT ReACT Computer and Data Science Certificate program. This innovative collaboration is built on the understanding that refugees and other aspiring remote-workers need marketable technical skills, the knowledge and ability to navigate the digital space, confidence communicating and working in English, the lingua franca of the technology sector, and the soft skills to effectively manage their part in the digital arena.

The MIT ReACT Computer and Data Science Certificate program provides educational and professional development opportunities for refugees, internally displaced persons and host community nationals in selected refugee hosting countries. This year’s cohort of fifty learners is committed to a year-long program guided by four pillars: academics, entrepreneurship, employment and networks. These include online academic coursework in computer and data science, developing learners as computational thinkers, an entrepreneurial spirit fostered by an immersive online bootcamps in innovation leadership, applied experience through paid professional internships, and mentorship and networking opportunities.

Slide from PowerPoint presentation, featuring a young woman in work apparel, with text prompting breakout groups to consider her as a case study for how to build relationships with her colleagues after starting a new job.
A slide from the Na’amal Remote Work Readiness program.

Complementing MIT ReACT’s Computer and Data Science Certificate program, learners are also engaged in Na’amal Remote Work Readiness program. Through interactive, supportive digital workshops and reflective, practical assignments, the program focuses on the ‘soft skills’ required to successfully work remotely. These durable human skills are introduced through modules on topics such as goal setting, communication, teamwork, and time management, and provide guidance about organizing a workflow and managing workday in remote settings. ReACT learners develop these skills in virtual small group workshops, which provides the experimental space for learners to practice the target skills while nurturing a trusting relationship and collaboration with their colleagues from around the globe.

MIT ReACT’s collaboration with Na’amal provides a novel and highly valuable dimension to the ReACT learner experience. Skills training for work in remote contexts is essential to any worker in the digital economy, but even more so for refugees and asylum-seekers striving to advance and sustain careers across geographic borders and locales. The combination of technical and remote work training situates MIT ReACT learners as highly competitive and attractive in the global workforce, especially in a post-COVID-19 professional landscape.

MIT ReACT is currently recruiting internships hosts around the globe. If you are a company or organization interested in working with us, register your interest here.

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