3 NGOs team up in bid to boost tech jobs for Arab, Ethiopian and Haredi Israelis

Collaboration is announced at AIPAC; KamaTech, Tech-Career and Tsofen work to help those on the sidelines of the Startup Nation’s tech boom

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Tech-Career students seek access to Israel's startup scene (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Tech-Career students seek access to Israel's startup scene (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Three Israeli nonprofit organizations that aim to propel Israel’s weaker populations onto the high-tech bandwagon will join forces in a bid to integrate ultra-Orthodox Jews, Ethiopian Israelis and Arab Israelis into the tech industry.

The collaboration was announced at the AIPAC conference in the US by the NGOs KamaTech, Tech-Career, and Tsofen, all of which have been working independently to promote diversity in the high-tech ecosystem and raise the profile of unrepresented populations.

The joining of forces comes as Israel’s tech industry is starved for skilled workers to fuel its growth, with a shortage of 12,000 to 15,000 qualified professionals a year, according to Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the industry and has also set up a coalition of partners, including NGOs, to bring Arabs and ultra-Orthodox women into the tech fold.

“The only way to fill this gap is by reaching out to Israel’s minority populations, whose untapped human talent is the most critical potential resource capable of responding to this challenge,” the three NGOs said in a joint statement.

Young graduates train at Tsofen’s Nazareth center (Courtesy Tsofen)

Over the past 15 years, KamaTech, Tech-Career and Tsofen have been separately working to place Israelis from the ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopian and Arab communities, respectively, in tech jobs by providing intensive technological training and “soft skills” such as interview-going, presentation and resume-writing.

KamaTech seeks to promote and integrate Haredi men and women into the Israeli high-tech industry. The organization works with the largest high-tech companies in Israel including Google, Facebook and Mobileye.

Tech-Career was set up by and for Ethiopian Israelis to offer the skills needed to access the nation’s tech industry. Tsofen seeks to integrate Arab Israelis into the tech scene.

Members of the KamaTech accelerator at the New York event last December (Courtesy)

Under the collaboration, the three NGOs will jointly pilot technological courses that will eventually become a comprehensive recruitment-training-placement program. The three organizations will also learn from each other’s best practices to create economies of scale, and will set up a model to encourage tech industries to promote inclusion in hiring practices and provide on-the-job training opportunities, said Takele Mekonen, the CEO of Tech-Career, in a statement.

The pilot technological courses have received the support of the US Embassy.

“High-tech and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of American and Israeli societies. The world looks to the United States and Israel for new ideas, new models. We also believe in the strength of a diverse society, one in which people from every ethnic, religious and cultural background contribute,” said Elizabeth Fritschle, Cultural Attaché at the US Embassy in Israel, in the statement.

Tech-Career students in class (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

“The project is a clear… win-win situation,” said Moshe Friedman, the CEO of Kama-Tech. “This breakthrough partnership will advance Israeli high-tech and the Israeli economy to new heights, strengthen Israeli society, and provide equal opportunities for all communities in Israel to be part of the growing and flourishing Israeli high-tech industry.”

Tech-Career’s Mekonen said that “without economic security and economic equality there is no social equality. We will pool our knowledge and experience to create a ‘triple advantage’ for our shared benefit—and the outcomes to benefit Israeli society at large.”

“The Arab society offers a significant potential of human talent in relevant areas — with growing numbers of Arab students pursuing high-tech professions in Israeli institutions of higher education. The Arab talent can ensure the continued existence of the Startup Nation in the coming decades. In order to expedite Arab integration in the high-tech industry, state and philanthropic investments are required. Together we can promote a joint and sustainable society in Israel,” said Sami Saadi, the co-CEO of Tsofen.

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