Arts Et Métiers, Ecole Technique
Arts Et Métiers, Ecole Technique in Dekwaneh, on the outskirts of the capital Beirut, has some 600 students enrolled in 11 specialisations, including mechanical aviation, electronics, industrial manufacturing, construction, and interior design.
It has a modern technical laboratory, and is involved with 270 companies from across its specialisations to enable better skills development.
“The school has been innovative - we first updated the laboratory, and then updated the curricula with a focus on the practical part. Teachers were also re-trained on systems by companies. It is creating jobs for graduates, employees for companies, and keeping teaching up-to-date, so it is a triple win,” said Antoinette Nasser Kanfhour, the technical school’s director.
Curricula is also being developed with the private sector.
“Companies want to work with a school where they see a return on investment. The more we are able to fulfil their needs for specific job vacancies, the more companies support the school, and make sure they develop curricula based on the systems the school uses,” she said.
Keeping the lights on
The school has struggled over the past three years with power cuts, fuel shortages, the Covid-19 pandemic, and public sector teacher strikes. The institution has nevertheless adapted to the situation, such as implementing a photo-voltaic (PV) programme over the past two years in response to the flurry of solar power systems being set up across Lebanon due to the power shortages. This has driven demand for technicians and skilled workers.
The school is working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on programmes involving PV systems as well as heating, air-conditioning and electricity. It is also involved in electricity-generating projects with the Lebanese Centre for Energy Conservation (LCEC), a not-for-profit organisation within the Ministry of Energy and Water.
One project with the LCEC is to install solar panels in 166 schools. The technical school is also working with NGOs on other sectors, including an enterprise training diploma.
To overcome any skills gaps in training programmes, the school uses international development organisations to provide trainers, who often come with a tank of gasoline to power the institute’s generator.
The three-year financial crisis has plunged an estimated 80 percent of people into poverty. The crisis has also exacerbated Lebanon’s brain-drain, with 875,000 people estimated to have left between 2019-2022, according to Information International. Lebanon’s population is small, at 5.5 million, which includes Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
Arts Et Métiers, Ecole Technique has no specific initiatives for Syrian refugees, with all students fully integrated in classes, but as of this year, Syrians will pay the same fees as Lebanese.
The institution’s focus will be on getting more women into industrial specialisations, from mechanics to electronics.
“We’re working on changing the mentality of parents about women studying such specialisms,” said Khanfour.
Amid the difficult economic conditions, on average 80% of the technical school’s graduates find a job, and 28% directly enter the labour market in the speciality they studied.
With technicians in weaker supply than engineers in the country, new graduates are often able to negotiate part or full wages in US dollars, which is sought after due to the currency crisis.
“The priority is to earn in dollars, and depending on the speciality, technical graduates are in demand,” said Khanfour.
Institut Technique Edde-Jbeil
The Institut Technique Edde-Jbeil is near the ancient port town of Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic), north of Beirut. It started in 2012 with 20 students, and the institute now has 446 students and courses in 10 specialisations: automotive, mechanical productivity, electricity, industrial informatics, topography, management, auditing, building and public works, hotel management and education.
Such skills are in demand, but the financial crisis and shortage of electricity – just two hours a day - has impacted the institute. It has struggled to pay for the diesel needed to run generators while keeping student fees nominal, said Elias Geagea, teacher and Guidance and Employment Officer.
The institute has been trying to work with NGOs in the solar power sector, as it hopes on-site instruction by its qualified instructors would be beneficial to students and the country at large.
The institute is planning to introduce specialisations in renewable energy, as well as for mechatronics, which is the integration of mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering systems.
Due to the obstacles the institution currently faces, it is unable to offer green skills as part of its programme, added Geagea.
"However, students can be guided to choose the right field based on their passion and skills and the needs of the labour market,’ responded Geagea. ‘This means having to get to know our students but also learning about the company’s vision, their values, and so on, so that we can identify the right opportunities for students."