American University of Beirut and WFP’s EMPACT Digital Skills Training


The United Nations World Food Programme’s EMPACT program aims to equip conflict-affected, displaced and refugee youth aged 18 - 24 with marketable skills to enable them to access work locally as well as in the global digital economy. The program consists of two phases. Phase One focuses on intensive English and basic IT training. In Phase Two English courses continue alongside more advanced IT training. In both phases, students receive soft skills training where they learn how to find jobs and advertise their skills.

I left Syria 5 years ago and I recommend this programme to any refugees who are disappointed with this world. You will have more opportunities and better jobs.
— Yaser Alhusary, Empact Student

Throughout – and after – the program participants have access to dedicated mentors to support and guide them with both academic and non-academic challenges. The participants also have access to online learning and earning platforms at home, and at work labs at the learning centers.

The EMPACT program has made significant investment in linking participants to crowdsourcing platforms around the world to support access to dignified work.

Location: Iraq, parallel programme in Lebanon with American University of Beirut, and plans to expand the reach across the Middle East, North and East Africa.

Note: American University of Beirut’s Digital Skills Training (DST) program is based on EMPACT program from WFP and it is a modular curriculum which spans 12 weeks and equips low-income youth with transferable digital skills, English, soft skills, and an entrepreneurial mindset. The curriculum covers basic to advanced digital skills, English language in face-to-face and online formats, and soft skills for career readiness, freelancing, and entrepreneurship. 

Solution Presentation

Solution Presenters

Yaser Alhusary
Yasser, his parents, and siblings left Syria two years into the brutal civil war to make an attempt at starting over with relatives in Lebanon. He immediately started looking for job opportunities in Lebanon. Over the next few years, the young refugee worked a string of temporary jobs in three different countries to help support his family. In Lebanon, he started working as a butcher. After the butcher shop he worked in a chicken shop, slaughtering and cleaning chickens. Next he worked in a corner store, and later two more butcher shops. The family travelled to Egypt, where he worked as a day labourer on construction sites. They decided to start over again, for a third time, in Iraq. Yasser worked in a factory making concrete blocks. Then he walked streets selling balloons to motorists. Next he worked with a company sealing roofs. Then he found himself using his butchering skills again, working in restaurants.

Though most of the jobs he found were temporary, Yasser was never out of work for more than a few days at a time. He is a hard worker. He quickly earned a good reputation everywhere he lived.

After successfully graduating from Empact. Yaser is now an Accounts Executer for Click Digital Company. He also handles the company social media accounts as well as designing and creating web sites for clients.

With the first influx of Syrian refugees to Iraq in 2013, Hezha was on the ground with UNICEF’s emergency team delivering humanitarian response in Northern Iraq. As the security situation deteriorated within Iraq and internally displaced populations migrated towards Kurdistan Region in masses, Hezha managed emergency response with a focus on health and nutrition between 2014 to 2016. A career with WFP began in the same year, with a focus on large scale Cash-Based Transfers (CBT) programs, leading to a role in resilience programming as the situation started to stabilize, requiring a transition to sustainable long-term solutions. Hezha is currently leading EMPACT Iraq, coordinating over seven locations and targeting 18,000 beneficiaries as well as overseeing other monthly CBT assistance to 35,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.

Rabih Shibli
Rabih Shibli is the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), which builds bridges between the university, external partners, and communities in order to facilitate change in marginalized landscapes and provide opportunities for transformative education. He has conceptualized and implemented developmental projects and authored publications reflecting the process of bridging developmental planning and experiential learning.

Currently, Shibli is the principle investigator for six projects tackling the Syrian refugee crisis: (a) Ghata: Bringing Education to Informal Tented Settlements, (b) Digital Skills Training Program, (c) Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access , (d) EdTech Curriculum for refugee children, (e) Science Education: A Key to University Access for Refugee Girls, and (f) Safe and Sound school-based psychosocial support.

Under his leadership, the AUB-CCECS was awarded the Most Civically Engaged University Campus in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) by Ma'an Alliance 2015, the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship from Tufts University 2016, SXSW Learn by Design Honorary Award 2018, it is shortlisted for the WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) Award 2018, and is the recipient of the Dr. Fritz Redlich Global Mental Health and Human Rights Award (2018).

Sarah Kouzi, MPH
Sarah Kouzi is the Project Manager, Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service, AUB. She has more than twenty years of experience in the development field and worked at a wide spectrum of bodies such as the UN, public sector, private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations both local and international. Her current and previous roles, between 2004 and present, have gained her extensive experience in the development sector as well as the relief and recovery sectors. Her experience ranges from establishing a Monitoring and Evaluation unit to developing Community Accountability and Reporting Mechanisms to rolling out Gender minimum standards. In her current role as Digital Skills Training Project Manager at the American University of Beirut, she is responsible for economically empowering vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian youth through the digital economy. Kouzi holds a Master of Public Health degree from AUB.