Israel: 21.6 million shekels for Arab employment in high technology

Programs aim to train and help 2,239 Arab Israelis find jobs in the country’s technology industry

Israel will fund a NIS 21.6 million ($5.7 million) program to train and integrate more than 2,000 Arab Israeli women and men into the local high-tech industry over the next two years, as part of an ongoing efforts to reduce employment and income gaps between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

The Israel Innovation Authority (IAA) together with the Labor Department of the Ministry of Economy and Industry selected 12 programs for the training and employment of 2,239 people from the Arab population. The 12 selected programs will receive a block of government grants of NIS 12 million, while the rest must be privately financed.

The labor market participation of the Arab population in the technology sector remains low despite numerous government initiatives. Long touted as the growth engine of Israel’s economy, the technology sector accounts for about 25% of the country’s total tax revenue and makes up about 10% of the workforce.

Israeli Arabs make up about 20% of the population, but only 2% of Arab men and 1% of Arab women work in the technology sector, according to government data. In comparison, 12% of men and 8% of women among the Jewish population work in this sector.

At the same time, the tech industry faces a serious shortage of skilled engineers and programmers. Low-income populations, including the ultra-Orthodox, Arab Israelis and women, have been largely left out of the high-tech boom, resulting in wide income disparities. Ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations, which are among the poorest in Israel today, are expected to make up half the population by 2065, according to the OECD.

“This reflects the lack of skills needed to enable them to obtain highly skilled and well-paid jobs,” according to the OECD report. “The integration of Israeli Arabs and Haredim into the labor market remains one of the main challenges for the Israeli economy.”

This year, more than 10,000 workers from the Arab population were employed in the tech industry, but half of them were in non-tech positions, according to Tair Ifergan, director general of the division of labor at the Ministry of Economy and Industry.

“Although the percentage of Arab citizens employed in the technology industry is still below the national average, in recent years we have seen an increasingly positive trend towards the integration of the Arab population and a significant increase in the number of Arab students in university technology departments,” said Dror Bin, CEO of The IIA. “Our goal is to increase the number of Arab citizens employed in technology and to create meaningful economic, social and regional change as part of strengthening and diversifying Israel’s technology sector.”

“Prompt and proper onboarding of graduates from these programs will be one of the important steps to reduce the technology workforce shortage in the long term,” Bin noted.

More than half of the programs selected under the project will train for advanced development positions in the technology sector, such as programming, and will include theoretical and practical training in the field. Soft skills will also be part of the education to broaden the skills of graduates and increase their chances of finding a quality job in the technology sector.

One of the funded programs will provide training and job placement assistance in the following four technology areas: robotics and automation, verification, DevOps and data analytics. Another program will focus on career development and promotion to leadership positions for technology workers in the Arab community.

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