Training the Disadvantaged to Fill Israel’s High-Tech Gap

May 21, 2018

Source: ISRAEL21c Corporation


JDC-Tevet, a partnership with the Israeli government for the advancement and inclusion into the Israeli workforce of vulnerable populations — Arab-Israelis, ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews, women, people with disabilities, Ethiopian immigrants, workers over 45, and other disadvantaged citizens, is one of many private and public initiatives training underemployed populations to address a shortage of skilled workers for Israel’s burgeoning high-tech arena. Many experts believe the gap can and should be filled domestically.

“There’s a shortage of 10,000 high-tech workers in Israel today, and the answer is right under our nose,” says Stuart Hershkowitz, vice president of Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), which runs special Sadel Technology programs preparing Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and Ethiopian Israelis for high-tech careers.

These populations suffer from a lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), English and higher-education opportunities. Only the brightest and most motivated can successfully catch up to their peers via an intensive one-year preparatory program.

Yet JCT currently has 553 Haredi women and 402 Haredi men studying computer science and engineering (plus hundreds more studying professions such as nursing and business), on separate campuses. Israel’s Council for Higher Education found that two-thirds of the 1,000 Haredi computer science students in 2017 were at JCT.

Among other Israeli programs integrating the ultra-Orthodox into high-tech are KamaTech, which supports startup entrepreneurs; and Temech for Haredi women.

According to a 2017 Israeli Innovation Authority report, approximately 270,000 Israelis work in high-tech. Arab-Israelis comprise just 3% of that sector. A variety of governmental, philanthropic, corporate and academic programs aim to raise that number to 20%, reflecting their proportion in the general population.

Hebrew proficiency is one hurdle in reaching this goal, says Prof. Bertold Fridlender, president of Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, which offers pre-academic programs for Arab, Haredi and other disadvantaged students.

Next year HAC will implement a mandatory Hebrew class as part of the first-year studies for Arab students who don’t need an extra year of pre-academic Hebrew, enabling them to graduate faster.

Fridlender says the percentage of HAC graduates working in their field of study actually is the same (85%) for Jews and Arabs. Arabs comprise about 19% of the 4,000-student population.

Nonprofit organizations such as Tsofen also work with the Israeli government to integrate more Arabs into the high-tech sector, mainly in the North. Sadel Technology is providing high-tech jobs to Bedouin Arabs in the South.

Several Israeli institutions of higher learning, including HAC, JCT and Ono Academic College,for example, offer subsidized pre-academic and academic programs for Ethiopian-Israelis, many of whom come from low-income families.

Specifically focusing on preparing them for high-tech jobs is the non-governmental organization Tech-Career
Established in 2002 — when there were only four Ethiopian-Israelis working in the high-tech field – Tech-Career now boasts hundreds of graduates and plans to build a new headquarters in Lod.

Israel also has programs that prepare citizens with disabilities to fill high-tech positions.

The SHEKEL organization for inclusion of people with disabilities runs employment programs for high-functioning people on the autism spectrum.

One of these programs teaches individuals with keen visual perception how to analyze video clips from roads across the world for Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based computer-vision giant that makes driver-assistance systems.

This groundbreaking partnership, begun two years ago, marks the first employment program for people on the autism spectrum in Israel’s corporate high-tech sector. Graduates of the eight-month course become full-fledged Mobileye employees.


Updated: May. 30, 2018