Professional development is key to improving and maintaining the cutting-edge skills and knowledge of professionals in their respective fields. Done in a strategic manner and over a period of time, it adds not only to the expertise of the individual trainees, but advances institutional capacity and sustainable development in critical ways. This has been the case for the Professional Skills Training Program (PTP) in Lebanon, a 10-year, $1.7 million program implemented by AMIDEAST for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Initiated in 2001, as Lebanon was still recovering from civil war, the PTP was an important component of a larger, U.S.-supported strategy of helping the war-torn country rebuild its public and civil institutions, reestablish the rule of law, and implement needed economic reforms. During the ensuing decade, the program trained more than 2,700 individuals through professional courses, conferences, workshops, and forums, enabling them to upgrade their knowledge in specific areas and strengthen the capacity of their institutions.
The program also provided exposure to international best practices and fostered linkages between professionals in Lebanon and colleagues in the United States and elsewhere. Many of the trainings took place in the United States; the rest either involved travel to regional conferences or were delivered by American experts brought by the PTP to Lebanon.
All told, the PTP, which drew to a close in September, has had a significant cumulative impact in Lebanon. By targeting professionals in government ministries, regulatory agencies, professional associations, and civil society, it has helped improve the delivery of public services in a range of areas, including telecommunication regulation, protection of intellectual property rights and consumer interests, public interest law, and capacity-building for NGOs. The skills acquired also expanded economic opportunities in a variety of areas and improved environmental practices and policies. The program worked across all sectors in support of USAID development objectives in Lebanon, including agriculture, banking, civil society, education, health, human rights, good governance, rule of law, and social services.
The impact of the PTP was complemented by a second USAID program, the Transparency and Accountability Grants (TAG) program, which was also implemented by AMIDEAST during the past decade. A small grants program, TAG directly targeted nongovernmental organizations for financial support and contributed to the development of a more vibrant civil society sector in Lebanon.
During its final year, the PTP funded a record 26 trainings, including several large in-country programs. The largest of them involved school health advisers and health coordinators at 1,120 public schools, who received training in how to monitor school food shops so that they will be able to conform to new government rules for nutrition and food safety at public schools. In yet another, 80 civil society activists received training in lobbying and advocacy.
Reflecting the diversity of beneficiaries, the program also funded training for teachers and conductors in a youth music program, a pyrex glass-blowing workshop with the International Association to Save Tyre for 21 disadvantaged young men and women in South Lebanon, and training for consumer protection inspectors to enable them to use new GIS technology to monitor fraud and counterfeit problems.