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College enables Orthodox to fill Israeli high-tech skills gap

    Israel's high-tech crown is under threat. The flow of innovations and billion-pound firms emerging from Silicon Wadi continues apace, but an increasing shortfall of workers - estimated at 10,000 - threatens growth.

    Enter Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT). The university has built a campus and programme designed to attract Charedim onto engineering and programming courses, supplying the industry with the skilled employees it needs.

    Split-sex campuses, English classes and a year-long course that results in a secondary school qualification make JCT a place where Charedim can flourish.

    The Orthodox students are also given coding lessons alongside Arabs, often a compulsory part of their course.

    Avi Gillis, chief executive of JCT in the UK, said the college had attracted around 1,300 men and 1,000 women from the Charedi community at a time when encouraging this growing population was "particularly important.

    Charedim are a huge untapped resource

    "Israel needs to be able to utilise as much of its homegrown talent as possible. With the Russian aliyah, a lot of skilled computer engineers came over, but that has stopped now."

    The 31-year-old father-of-two, who lives in north-west London, said Israel's changing demographics made JCT's programme crucial.

    "This is the new Israel, and Charedim are a massive untapped resource for the Israeli economy. Their population is growing, which is a ticking time-bomb for the national demography. If they're not employed generally, they will be a massive drain on the state. The Charedi community exists, to a great extent, below the poverty line. High-tech jobs are very well paid, and they're suited to Charedim."

    The university had created a welcoming environment by taking on "an attitude which focuses on how we can lower all the barriers that were stopping Charedim from entering academia or the workplace," Mr Gillis said.

    One successful alum of JCT's programme is Tuvia Elbaum, the chief executive of ZutaLabs, who has created the world's first robotic mini-printer. The 350g device is able to print from your smartphone or laptop onto any piece of paper, and will go on the market in 2017.

    Mr Elbaum said: "JCT combines the worlds of Torah and work. That is something I've tried to do throughout my life."

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