Digital youth empowerment

by  — 6 April 2013

As career guidance is still a relatively new concept in most of the Arab world, Silatech recently launched Tamheed, an online assessment programme destined to play an important role in the career development of young Qataris.

If you were to gather a group of professionals and ask them why they chose their respective career paths, you are likely to walk away with very different responses. Someone might be in a family business, while another may have taken a long and staggered path to get to where they are today. However you would probably also encounter at least one person who knew exactly what it is they wanted to do from the moment they were born. Some people seem to possess an intense, almost primordial drive, steering them down a predestined path towards success. They might say, “I’ve always known I was going to be in sales,” or “I wasn’t going to stop until I became a lawyer.” It is always impressive, and arguably sometimes a bit intimidating. Because for most people, the question of what to do for a career is not something they have been thinking about since birth.

This lack of occupational focus is not an indication of laziness or ineptitude; rather, it is simply unfamiliarity with the careers that are available in the workplace. As a child, one might comprehend the notion of being a farmer or a policeman, but may not be aware of the thousands of other career paths that lay before them. In the Arab world especially, career guidance is virtually unknown, with many young people unaware of the opportunities in the private and public sector. But even individuals who are aware of various job options may not take into account their own personality and preferences when considering a possible career.

In an effort to help the region’s youth find viable career options, Qatar-based Silatech has partnered with Mindmill, a European human resources firm specialising in online psychometric tests, to create the Tamheed programme – a suite of products that can be administered online in a user-friendly way, incorporating an expert system to help career counsellors provide personalised advice, and recruiters assess potential candidates.

Tamheed is an online psychometric assessment tool that helps young people figure out their strengths, and what types of career they might most enjoy. It aims to open the eyes of young people to the choices available to them career-wise, and is an important aspect of the career guidance process that Silatech is working to establish throughout the region. Through a network of more than 42 affiliated career centres, Tamheed is able to reach and assist thousands of young Arabs in their quest for sustainable career development.

Through a series of online assessments that evaluate an individual’s abilities, personality traits and interests, Tamheed helps users make more objective and informed decisions in many areas including recruitment, selection, training, development, and career guidance. The results are translated into a user-friendly report, which qualified career advisors review with the individuals in order to identify personality strengths and possible education, training or career paths. Accredited by the British Psychological Society and contextualised into Arabic and French, Tamheed assessments have been normed for the region by highly qualified psychometricians.

How Tamheed works

Tamheed assessments can be completed with expert assistance for all school leavers, graduates and even those currently in the workforce at the Bedaya facility located at Katara in Doha.

Users log on to the website (either at one of the regional career centres or from an offsite computer) and register to take the test. Tamheed utilises three distinct types of assessments to measure different aspects of each candidate’s ability: cognitive, personality and career interests. The cognitive portion consists of an ‘alphabet’ portion and one testing ‘number fluency’.

The alphabet section is an assessment of basic literacy skills. It assesses the speed of perceiving letters and selecting them into alphabetical order, foundational skills that allow individuals to read and write fluently and use language proficiently.

The number fluency section is an assessment of basic numerical skills, testing an individual’s understanding, reasoning and ability when performing numerical tasks including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The personality section asks questions, which measure individual differences in motivation and preferences – while the career interests section measures individual interests and motivations in terms of specific industries.

Once users complete the assessments, they receive a personalised report that identifies their strengths and possible career paths. These reports are then analysed by professional career counsellors who help guide users and offer advice.

One such user is Reem Al Sowaidi, a confident and upbeat 25-year-old Qatari who graduated from Stenden University and took the test earlier this year. “I met with Majed [Fathallah Abdel-Meguid – a career advisor at the Bedaya Center, Qatar] and he told me about my personality, my strengths, my weaknesses, and how I should improve them,” said Al Sowaidi. “I took a course at the Bedaya Center called ‘How to be self confident’, [and one] about speaking skills. These were really good courses which boosted my personality and my speech.”

When asked about the process, Al Sowaidi responded, “I definitely would recommend the process because as a student, I wish I had taken this before [entering university]…I would have started with a better idea of what I would be doing in life.”

But Tamheed is not just limited to helping young people choose a career path. The programme was designed to aid individuals throughout multiple stages of career development. This is the case for Sharifa Al Saad, a 27-year-old Qatari whose Tamheed results reinforced that she was in a field that suited her strengths.

Al Saad had been working in public relations for two years, and took Tamheed to ensure she was employed in a field that capitalised on her strengths. Her results showed that she was strong in media, graphic design and public relations, and her advisor counseled that she should continue in her career in public relations. “I made sure that I was in the right path, so I kept working in the same field.” When asked if the process gave her more confidence in her abilities and skills, Al Saad replied, “I was afraid that I’m not in the right path…so when I took Tamheed it was for this reason.” Al Saad’s story is a prime example of one of Tamheed’s main goals, which is to help Arab youth choose a career path which best fits their interests and aptitudes.

In an effort to reach more young Qataris, Silatech has introduced Tamheed to a number of independent secondary schools in Qatar, as well as Qatar University and the College of the North Atlantic. Through these as well as other efforts, Silatech is working to develop a skilled workforce within Qatar and throughout the Arab world.

Indeed, in Gulf countries specifically, the jobs available for Arab youth are vast and varied. While the temptation to choose a job based solely on salary may be great, the long-term effects of compensation-based job placement could be detrimental. But by helping young people to find jobs for which they are naturally suited, the youth benefit from longer and healthier careers, and the region benefits from sustainable economic development.

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