Israel program aims to give Haredim cybersecurity skills

11-month course targets excellent computer science and software engineering graduates, broadening pool of available talent

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

Illustrative: Haredi boys. (Rishwanth Jayapaul/Flash90)
Illustrative: Haredi boys. (Rishwanth Jayapaul/Flash90)

A new national program targeting women and men from the ultra-Orthodox and religious Zionist sectors will provide training in the fields of cyber-tech and information security to help them integrate in Israel’s high-tech industry.

The program aims to bring diversity into Israel’s tech workforce and to expand the pool of workers of Israel’s flourishing cyber industry, the organizers of the initiative said.

The 11-month program is aimed at graduates of computer science and software engineering programs who excelled in their studies and passed a rigorous selection process.

The program is a partnership between the Lev Academic Center, a Jerusalem-based college for the Orthodox community, the Cyber Education Center of the Rashi Foundation and the National Cyber Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The first group selected for the program consists of 32 students, 16 men and 16 women, who will study a variety of subjects in a curriculum developed by industry experts. The subjects are not generally part of regular university studies, the program organizers said.

“In building the program, we gathered essential information about the needs of the defense and civil industries and designed the content to address these needs in the best way possible,” said Sagy Bar, director of the Rashi Foundation’s Cyber Education Center.

“The cyber industry is one of the main growth engines of Israel’s economy,” said Yigal Unna, director of the Cyber Technologies Unit in the National Cyber Bureau. “To enable and promote this growth it is crucial to increase and diversify the workforce in the field. Training programs like these bring new populations to the world of cyber R&D and help to preserve the leading status of Israel in this area.”

As multinationals flock to Israel to set up research and development centers to tap into Israeli technologies, they compete with local startups and foreign peers for talented engineers and programmers. And as a shortage of these skilled workers looms over the next decade, Israel is looking to tap into populations — women, the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs, who have been left mostly at the sidelines of the startup nation boom.

Israel is considered a global leader in cyberdefense technologies, garnering some  some 20 percent of the global private investments in cybersecurity, according to government data.  A 2016 report on the industry showed that there are some 430 cybersecurity companies currently operating in Israel, with an average of 52 new  startups established in the sector annually since 2000.

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