Entrepreneurship and Employment
Recognizing that innovation and entrepreneurship are key to competitiveness, the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) worked to help create a center for innovation and entrepreneurship at the King Hussein Business Park (KHBP) and to engage major supporting organizations in the innovation ecosystem — including Oasis500 and iPARK — in providing specialized services to entrepreneurs and technology startup companies hosted at the center. Complementing these efforts, JCP, worked with individual entrepreneurs to offer training in app development, the Internet of Things, and soft skills. On a policy level, JCP played a critical role in advocating for Career Guidance Offices at major Jordanian universities as well as to push through Venture Capital (VC) regulations that are helping attract more capital to the country’s startups.
Making Business Services Available to Jordanian Startups
For those young entrepreneurs lucky enough to secure initial funding from Venture Capital firms or seed investment funds like Oasis500, growing from a small startup to a small- or medium-sized enterprise (SME) takes more than willpower. These budding business people need resources that are often beyond the reach of new enterprises — resources like lawyers to help them obtain operating licenses or accountants to file tax returns and register with the social security administration, to name just a few examples. That’s where iPARK, another grantee of the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) and the country’s most prominent business incubator comes in.
With USAID support, iPARK has grown from an Amman-based organization to one serving young entrepreneurs throughout the country. This expansion, which now includes offices in Irbid and Aqaba, has been a key distinction of iPARK’s mission while also helping it add dozens more promising companies to its portfolio. Of the 77 businesses it has assisted with USAID support, 23 have been in Amman and 54 in Irbid. These new businesses have created 327 high-value jobs, generating $1.59 million dollars in new investment. A further 12 companies are slated for incubation in Aqaba, where USAID assisted iPARK with launching its third incubator in October 2017.
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JCP Partners with Microsoft, Intel to Bring Cutting-Edge Tech to Young ICT Professionals
In addition to its work with Jordanian universities through the establishment of Career Guidance Offices, the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP) has helped bridge the gap between formal academic training and the needs of a fast-changing ICT sector by partnering with major multinational corporations such as Intel and Microsoft to provide training on the latest emerging technologies — including the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and 3D printing.
Begun in 2015, the JCP-supported Microsoft Academic Accelerator Program offered two “waves” of training, including in app development and cloud computing, to more than a hundred aspiring tech professionals. Meanwhile JCP’s partnership with Intel was a three-year public-private partnership to support education and entrepreneurship in Jordan’s science and technology sector. The project aimed to accelerate economic growth, create jobs, and maximize Jordan’s competitiveness in the global marketplace by training the next generation of ICT graduates using Intel’s Galileo boards and designing IoT-enabled hardware. The partnership also led to the country’s first-ever Maker Competition, held at the Dead Sea in December 2015.
Seed Investment for Jordanian Innovators
Under a grant by the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program, the Entrepreneurial & Investment Project Development Co (Oasis500) has concluded several three-day bootcamps with the aim of enhancing the creation of new startups and facilitating their access to follow-on investment opportunities, while providing them with the seed investment they require to kick off their projects. The bootcamps come as part of a series of activities aimed at orienting the entrepreneurial community in Jordan toward the high-value fields of Clean & Sustainable Technologies, Healthcare Technologies, Hardware and Electronics Design, and Urban Solutions. Simultaneously, the project aims to change the low-engagement of the targeted sectors -- especially by youth, women, students, and underprivileged communities -- by providing them with the right tools and preparation to engage both actively and effectively.
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Transforming Internships into Paid Employment Opportunities
Bridging the gap between employers’ needs and fresh graduates’ skills can be a challenge, especially with scarce funding for continuing education programs and the professionals who lead them. Still, soft skills like resume writing, interview techniques, and networking are too vital to overlook, especially in a tight job market where competition is stiff. That’s why the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP), through an innovative partnership with a local educational organization, engaged human resources professionals from a range of private-sector companies to help meet with and mentor recent graduates.
Through a grant to Jordan Education For Employment (JEFE), JCP placed at least 638 new graduates in sustainable employment opportunities. With 853 participants in the program, that’s more than a 70 percent placement rate. The program, which was launched in December 2015, placed new graduates in private sector job opportunities related to their field of study and led 26 training sessions to better prepare the new graduates for the Jordanian job market. Other opportunities included 25 job fairs attended by a number of leading corporations from diverse sectors.
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Oasis500 Takes Startup Message to Potential Entrepreneurs across Jordan
Although not every college graduate is an entrepreneur, many of the most innovative business ideas are born during students’ exposure to new ways of thinking as part of their higher education. Harnessing those ideas is part of what makes Oasis500, a longtime partner and grantee of the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (JCP), so unique. As the country’s first-of-its-kind seed investor and a model for others throughout the region, Oasis500 has proactively made it possible for hundreds of Jordanian graduates to imagine a way forward for their business ideas and, for a select number, given these graduates a place to incubate their ideas.
With USAID support, Oasis500 implemented 11 boot camps with 252 entrepreneurs; held 13 investment events with new investors; and conducted one national entrepreneurship competition. Oasis500 also conducted 52 different awareness sessions. All told, these efforts have paid off through more $4 million dollars invested in 43 startups.
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Youth Entrepreneurship Program
The Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program organized by the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (USAID JCP) and the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD) has honored two groups of graduates. The more than 200 participants include students and graduates of five universities: the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), German-Jordanian University (GJU), Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT), Al Albayt University, and the Hashemite University. At the granduation ceremonies, students presented business plans as an outcome of the training. Successful Jordanian entrepreneurs were on hand at the ceremonies to share their experience, offer motivational advice, and take questions from the new graduates.
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