Google sets up tech program at Reichman University as part of $25m diversity drive

New ‘School of High-Tech’ to offer academically supervised and credited courses in programming, data analysis and business development, with focus on underrepresented communities

Ricky Ben-David is a Times of Israel editor and reporter

A Google office building at the company's campus in Silicon Valley, June 2019. (Sundry Photography via iStock by Getty Images)
A Google office building at the company's campus in Silicon Valley, June 2019. (Sundry Photography via iStock by Getty Images)

Google is partnering with Israel’s Reichman University (formerly the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya or IDC) to launch a new program that will offer academically supervised and credited courses to students looking to sharpen their tech skills ahead of a potential career in Israel’s most celebrated industry.

In the announcement Monday, Google and Reichman University said they were establishing a “School of High-Tech” that will include tech and business courses like programming, software testing, business development and data analysis “to prepare students for professions that are in high demand in the Israeli high-tech market.”

But unlike the university’s established schools named after prominent magnates and with their financial support like the Lauder School of Government (named after American billionaire and philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder) or the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson School of Entrepreneurship or the Sammy Ofer School of Communications, all of which offer bachelor’s degrees (and some master’s), the new “school” is more like an academic bootcamp, a short but intensive training program.

The program will also provide support for placements and integration into the tech sector, the university said in a statement.

Admission to the program will be based on applicants’ abilities, qualifications, and interpersonal skills, with a focus on students from communities whose underrepresentation is starkly noted in the tech sector. These communities include ultra-Orthodox and Arab professionals, women, and those who live outside Israel’s central areas, also called the “periphery.”

Google is set to provide scholarships to program participants, who will divide their time between the Google Campus in Tel Aviv and Reichman University’s Herzliya campus. The university said some of the courses will be held in the northern and southern parts of the country — the “periphery” — in the future.

Reichman University campus (courtesy)

The program is part of a $25 million Google initiative announced earlier this year to fund skills development programs over the next five years for members of Israel’s underrepresented communities.

“Google has been leading the journey to diversify Israeli high-tech for several years,” said Barak Regev, managing director of Google Israel, in a statement on Monday, noting the tech giant’s support for programs such as SheCodes, which offers coding programs for women, and KamaTech, an Israeli accelerator for startups founded by ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs. Both programs started at the Google Campus, which provides support and mentoring for such initiatives.

“We believe that a variety of voices, opinions and perspectives enriches Israeli high-tech and its developments,” said Regev. The program will “enable us to expand the circle of high-tech employees and, at the same time, diversify it through skilled and high-quality employees from all parts of the Israeli population.”

From right to left: Barak Regev, managing director of Google Israel, Gali Shahar Efrat, general manager of external and executive education at Reichman University, Professor Uriel Reichman, founding president and chairman of the board of Reichman University, and Prof. Yossi Matias, VP at Google and head of Israel’s R&D Center. (Gilad Kavalerchik)

Though Israel’s technology industry is the crown jewel of the economy, cementing the country’s reputation as a high-tech nation, it has been plagued by serious challenges like a lack of diversity and an acute shortage of talent. Israel has approximately 20,000 open tech positions, according to the latest Human Capital in Tech 2021-2022 report by the Start-Up Nation Policy Institute and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) released this summer.

The shortage of deep tech talent, where desired candidates usually have backgrounds in engineering and development or are fresh out of elite intelligence units in the Israel Defense Forces, connects to a lack of diversity.

The tech workforce has been dominated by a Jewish male majority for years, and the lack of diversity and inclusivity has been marked as a risk to the tech sector and its growth potential.

“Less than 20% of its salaried employees are Arab, most of its employees are non-ultra-Orthodox men, women comprise less than a third of all the industry’s salaried employees, and ultra-Orthodox men and women comprise only 3%,” read the annual “The State of High-Tech 2022” report released by the IIA in May.

The Israeli government has been trying to address the shortage and the lack of diversity in the sector in recent years by promoting various programs and initiatives aimed at integrating members of underrepresented communities into the industry.

When Google announced the initiative in February, it said the drive would support the government’s plan to increase the share of tech employees from about 10% now to 15% by 2025, and would plug into its existing programs and partnerships that “equip underrepresented groups with the skills and tools needed to succeed in tech.”

Prof. Uriel Reichman, founding president and chairman of the board of Reichman University, said the new tech program with Google “is being established out of national responsibility and a belief that it is only through education that can we promote social mobility.”

Reichman founded the IDC in 1994. The academic institution was formally recognized as a private university — Israel’s first — just last year and rebranded as Reichman University.

As a private institution, its annual tuition starts at about NIS 53,000 ($15,000), compared to the flat rate of NIS 10,200 ($3,500) at public Israeli universities for a bachelor’s degree. The university has a large body of overseas students and a reputation for catering to Israeli students from affluent families, though it does offer generous scholarships to qualifying applicants. The institution said that some 8,000 students attended the university in 2021, and, since its founding, at least 32,000 have graduated.

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