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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 5 (2015 Deadline)


Data Science for Improved Education and Employability in Morocco


PI: Ghita Mezzour (ghita.mezzour@uir.ac.ma), International University of Rabat
U.S. Partner: Kathleen Carley, Carnegie Mellon University
Project Dates: February 2017 - January 2020 

Project Overview:

The mismatch between the job supply and demand creates major social, political, and economic problems in Morocco. Every year, many graduates are unable to find jobs, and the resulting youth unemployment causes major social and political tensions. Paradoxically, at the same time, employers are unable to find candidates with the required skills, and this skills shortage results in missed economic opportunities for the country. Despite the importance of the studying skill mismatch in Morocco, the topic attracts very limited attention in the literature. Moreover, there is a lack of large data sets that researchers can use to systematically study the issue and identify effective interventions to alleviate it.

5-648 Mezzour
The PI and her team at the USAID career center in Tangier. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mezzour
The goal of this project is to measure the skill mismatch in Morocco and identify measures to align university training with the job market. More specifically, these researchers will collect and analyze multiple large data sets about higher education and the job market in Morocco.

They will build profiles of university graduates and job openings in Morocco and identify areas of misalignment between the two. They will also interview human resources staff from multiple organizations to learn about their concerns in more detail. Finally, they will collect traditional and social media discussions about higher education and jobs in Morocco in order to learn about the general population’s concerns about the topic.

This project should lead to advances in both education and computer science, and the analysis to be conducted should yield deep and novel insight about areas of mismatch between higher education and the job market in Morocco.















Summary of Recent Events

In this reporting period, PI Dr. Ghita Mezzour and her project team organized a major stakeholder event at the International University of Rabat. The event was attended by USAID Mission Director Brooke Isham, who gave the opening statement. Representatives from the Ministry of Education, Higher Council of Education, universities, private companies, and agencies promoting employability in the country attended, as well as the USAID Regional Research Advisor and NAS Program Officer. The stakeholders were excited about the project and urged the PI to continue the research and enlarge its scope. During the meeting, they held a panel discussion titled “Training the Next Generation of Cyber Security Experts in Morocco”. The discussion focused on how to align cybersecurity education with the needs of the job market in Morocco. The panelists included Melissa Hathaway (Hathaway Global Strategies), Suzanne Moyer (Nevo Technologies), Ghita Mezzour (International University of Rabat), and Lila Wade (USAID Mission in Rabat). The event was featured in the local press and on national television.

PhD student Ibrahim Rahhal spent three months at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) during the fall of 2018 working with U.S. partner Dr. Kathleen Carley. PhD students Imane Khaouja and Ibtissam Markdoun will also spend three months each at CMU starting in February 2019.

The PI together was awarded about $340,000 by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Program to carry out a big data project in Morocco titled ThreatPredict. Dr. Mezzour reports that the PEER project helped secure the ThreatPredict project because it helped demonstrate her expertise in developing and using data science techniques to address problems with strong societal implications. In addition to this funding, the PhD student on the PEER project, Imane Khaouja, received a Google Africa PhD fellowship ($30,000). Only four PhD students in Africa received the fellowship, Imane being the only one in Morocco.

Lastly, Agence du Developpement Digital (the national agency that aims at encouraging the use of digitization in the country) is interested in using the methodology the PEER team developed in this project to identify the needs for different digital jobs and the skills required for those jobs.



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