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Career counselor plays critical role as Moroccan university students seek jobs

November 02, 2018

There is a saying in Morocco: When you don’t have something, you can’t give it.

Asmae Mani, counselor at the University of Casablanca Career CenterBut, Asmae Mani has a different one: When you feel and experience something, then you can share it with someone who needs it.

That philosophy guides her work as a career counselor at the University of Casablanca Career Center, one of six centers launched under the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Morocco Career Center project to prepare graduates to find employment in a challenging job market.

Employment trends in Morocco have changed rapidly in recent years, with fewer opportunities in the public sector. University graduates are instead turning to the private sector, but more than 23 percent of them are unemployed. The incongruity between the skills of job seekers and the needs of private-sector employers presents a significant obstacle.

Counselors like Ms. Mani play a critical role in supporting the successful transition from school to the workforce.

“Companies pay for skills, not diplomas,” Ms. Mani tells her students, who study topics as varied as math, physics and literature. Ms. Mani helps her students better understand their skill sets and how to effectively articulate their abilities to employers. “Most people think about what they don’t have,” she said. Her advice for her students is the opposite – to focus on their existing skills to further develop and strengthen them.

Career counselors like Ms. Mani are available to their students all day – and even after hours via cell phone. Counselors provide coaching sessions and workshops on specific skills needed in the private sector, such as soft skills like team work or time management. They also manage programs and events on campus, such as job search and resume workshops and career fairs.

In addition to the centers in Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangier, the project offers a virtual career center for young Moroccans who cannot visit the physical centers. More than 52,000 youth are registered on this website, and close to 30,000 students have received work-readiness training, either in person or online.

Ms. Mani says her job as a career counselor feels more like a calling. “I don’t go to the career center because I have to – I go because I want to,” she said. She has an undergraduate degree in economics and a master’s degree in human resources. She has found greater job satisfaction at the career center than elsewhere. In part, this is because the young people become her family, sending her texts like this recent one: “Thank you, my sister,” said one student who found employment after graduating from the University of Casablanca.

Of all the advice Ms. Mani gives her students, she feels most passionately about the spirit of entrepreneurship. “Even if you are employed by a company, you should work like you are working for yourself,” she said. “It’s important because you learn … and you will evaluate yourself because you have a sense of belonging to something.”

She added, “When you give to something, you get something back.”

Photo credit: Leanne Gray/FHI 360