Israel's tech firms launch hunt for Arab and Charedim employees

Israel’s booming hi tech industry has launched an outreach programme to overcome worker shortages


The shortage of workers in Israel’s hi tech industry is rapidly becoming a crisis.

A further 15,000 trained personnel are needed than are currently available in the local economy, according to a recent survey.

It means that a quarter of tech companies run part of their research and development activites outside of Israel. Others have made applied for work visas in their thousands to bring software engineers in from India.

And yet the share of tech employees in the Israeli workforce is falling: from 10 per cent in 2013, it is eight per cent today.

For analysts, the solution has longer been clear: Israel’s Strictly Orthodox and Arab residents — which together make up a third of the population.

There has been a sharp increase in both Charedi women and Arab Israelis studying tech-related subjects at higher levels of education, but their employment in Israel’s more prestigious technological companies has been largely stymied.

Past employment is one reason for this: many of the jobs on offer require experience on projects and teams that these candidates do not have.

Most non-Charedi Jewish Israelis come with suitable experience from their military service, which in many cases also furnishes them with a network of contacts that are extremely useful in the local job market.

Start Up Nation Central, an organisation that tries to connect tech companies with investors from abroad and with potential employees, has launched a programme to improve the chances of Charedi Women and Israeli Arabs in the market.

“Israel does not have a choice but to integrate women, Charedim and Arabs into the core of the hi tech industry,” said Eugene Kandel, the organisation’s chief executive.

“Integration into tech will address the social mobility of these tribes and it will provide the industry with a large pool of talent it needs so much to grow.”

Hodaya Marciano, a resident of Kiryat Gat and one of the first group of 23 Charedi women in the programme, explained her predicament: “I studied software engineering for five years at a Charedi college, but I discovered upon graduation that I still lacked the skills for sitting in a work interview and convincing the interviewer that I had the necessary skills.”

East Jerusalem resident Sari Maori, one of 20 Arabs enrolled, studied information systems management at Bethlehem University and some programming courses in Tel Aviv.

“There’s a gap between the level of our education and the experience we have in working in the Israeli companies,” he said, “especially for those of us who were in Arab universities who also need to work on their Hebrew, which is a major barrier.”

“So we have to improve our language skills and this is an opportunity to do that as part of an ongoing project.”

Start Up Nation Central aims to provide the “soft skills” which can help its graduates through the process of job seeking and interviewing, project director Avital Blass said.

“Also, over three months, we work as teams on an actual research project for one of Israel’s main tech companies who are partnering with us.

“That will give them some experience to add to their CVs and their first contacts in the industry.”

The project has already attracted high profile support: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin attended the programme’s launch last month and the companies invested include Mobileye, the software giant for self-driving cars that was sold to Intel in a deal worth $15 billion last year.

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