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Akhtaboot sat down with H.E. Bassem Al Salem, former Minister of Labor and Chairman of Capital Bank to talk about his perspective on how Jordan’s current economical state is affecting the banking and financial sector and how to tackle Jordan’s unemployment issue.


Do you remember your first job? What was your position?

I worked at a company that manufactures plastic bags and agricultural films as a production manager.

What are the secrets to success?

How you think is everything. Always be positive. Think success, not failure. Decide upon your true dreams and goals and always remember that goals are nothing without action. Be persistent, work hard and don’t be afraid to innovate. It is also important to recognize your strengths and identify your weaknesses so that you can build on the strengths and outsource the weaknesses.

We come across many job seekers that complain about the lack of career opportunities, and companies find it hard to find the right candidate as well. Where do you think the problem stems from?

The problem stems from the growing mismatch between the output of our educational system and market demand. I suggest universities should set up an information office that compiles data from the market and directs applicants towards majors that the market requires.

What changes would you like to see in the Jordanian job market?

I would love to see the Jordanian job market becoming a destination rather than a station. Today, Jordanian youth get their education and early experience in Jordan before venturing abroad to the Gulf and the West. This indicates we have a valuable pool of talent which is not realizing their full potential domestically. I would like to see all stakeholders in society support a work culture based on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, creativity and celebration of success. Promoting such a culture will not only retain local talent, but also attract distinguished people from all around the world.

Equally important is the cultural promotion of blue-collar employment. There are hundreds of thousands of domestic blue-collar jobs available that are currently being filled by imported labor, costing the economy hundreds of millions of dinars annually in outward transfers and even more in terms of the forgone domestic consumption and investment and their multiplier effects. I believe the aversion to blue-collar employment is cultural and not economical, as we are seeing blue-collar jobs pay more than white-collar ones in many cases. Society must abolish any stigma associated with manual labor and promote, socially and otherwise, blue-collar employment as a key foundation of the Jordanian economy.

Jordan has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. In your opinion, why does Jordan have such a high unemployment rate?

The major cause of the high unemployment in Jordan is not the absence of job opportunities, but rather the reluctance of some Jordanians to accept vocational or manual work. The government should work on changing the society’s mindset towards vocational jobs. The youth should understand that vocational work is not less important or less worthy of respect, or even less rewarding financially than office work. In short, our labor market is thirsty for workers with vocational skills, not for educated ones.

What makes a good first impression?

Confidence.

What makes a great CV and interview?

A great CV is one that is informative, concise, truthful in content, and has proper spelling and grammar.

As for delivering a great interview, make sure that you dress professionally, arrive a few minutes early, show the panel that you’ve gone the extra mile and take the time to find out that bit more about the company. Figure out who will be attending the meeting. Preparation is the secret behind every successful interview.

What are the main challenges facing the banking sector in Jordan?The economic slowdown is set to remain the main drag on the banking sector’s growth and profitability. Liquidity is also a challenge, particularly for small and medium sized banks. The sector’s liquidity is sufficient but not distributed equally, and mechanisms that facilitate the flow of liquidity between banks are very weak and inactive. It goes without saying that the continuous change in laws and legislation also harms the banking sector.

Banking and Finance are popular majors to study in university. How does a candidate stand out? 

A candidate that stands out is one who is passionate about it. To be a successful finance student you should constantly try to apply theory to the real world. Stay up to date with current events and subscribe to economic and financial magazines and newsletters. Try applying what you learn in class to the real world. Apply for internships during summer vacations to actually experience what it is like to work at a financial institution. This will give you a competitive edge as it will first, give you professional experience and second, insight into what areas suits you.

What advice would you like to give to the Job Seekers who are struggling to find a job?

Looking for a job can be one of the toughest tasks in life, especially during economic downturns, it’s extremely important to soldier on. Do not give up. Expand your job search by applying to different industries. Open yourself up to more geographical locations, sectors and career types. Consider applying for internships. Alternatively, you can embark on the self-employment route.

What do you think of the Akhtaboot brand?

The Akhtaboot brand is the first of its kind in Jordan. Akhtaboot started off as an initiative envisioned by entrepreneurs and has grown into a well-established SME. It contributed to easing the job seeking process as it centralized data regarding job opportunities. We at Capital Bank appreciate such start-ups and SMEs and support them as they majorly contribute to the economic growth of Jordan.

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Bassem Khalil Al Salem
Chairman of Capital Bank

After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College in 1979, Bassem Al-Salem returned to Jordan beginning his career in the private sector. After starting several companies including manufacturing facilities and co-founding Capital Bank Jordan, in which he now serves as Executive Chairman of the Board, he entered the public sector in 2000 as member of the Board of Central Bank of Jordan and subsequently as Minister of Labor and Minister of Financebetween 2005 and 2009. He has served as chairman/ member of several Boards such as Vocational Training Corporation, ETVET Fund, Royal Investment Committee for Education, Social Security Corporation, Development & Employment Fund, King Abdullah Fund for Development and Kings Academy. He is married and has one son.

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