Israel to fund training schemes to lure tech talent from overseas

Amid shortage of skilled professionals, Israel Innovation Authority earmarks NIS 17.6 million in grants to boost tech skills of 2,550 people

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women work on computers in the Comax software company office in the central city of Holon near Tel Aviv on April 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA )
Illustrative: Workers at a software company office in the central city of Holon near Tel Aviv on April 17, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA )

Israel has been subsidizing dozens of programs amid a shortage of tech professionals to help train skilled workers for the high-tech industry. Now the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) is embarking on another initiative to lure skilled tech talent from abroad and train new immigrants who are already in the country, even as the local hi-tech industry is going through a wave of layoffs.

Under the initiative, the IIA will fund the professional training of 2,550 people to place skilled human capital in the local high-tech industry over the next two years with a focus on areas such as bio-convergence, medical big data and food tech.

In charge of setting out Israel’s tech policies and fostering the tech ecosystem, the IIA in November selected 15 training and placement schemes, which will be granted NIS 17.6 million ($5.12 million) in government funds out of the total NIS 36 million (roughly $10.5 million) budgeted for the initiative. The remainder will be raised from private funding.

“Our most recent initiative is for Israeli expats who live abroad and who we want to attract to come back to Israel, for… new immigrants [and those] from around the world arriving under the Law of Return,” Etay Levanon, head of the IIA’s high-tech human capital department told The Times of Israel. “We know that there is an ongoing human capital shortage but we are not hesitating to make investments for the long term.”

Levanon said that the IIA works in a joint effort with the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, to draw high-skilled human capital to Israel from overseas, including Russia and Ukraine, and integrate them into the Israeli tech industry.

Tech workers from abroad who are not of Jewish descent or do not fall under the definition of the Law of Return need to get work permit visas to allow them to remain in Israel for an extended period of time. For a variety of reasons, these visas can be tough to get, which in turn makes it harder for companies to hire tech talent from overseas.

Israel has a vibrant technology industry cementing its reputable high-tech sector, which accounts for about 15% of the country’s economic activity. At the same time, the high-tech nation suffers from a severe shortage of skilled tech workers which has led to tens of thousands of unfilled positions. The tech employment market is struggling with a lack of diversity and an acute shortage of talent.

Etay Levanon, head of the high-tech human capital department at the Israel Innovation Authority. (Courtesy/Hanna Teib)

Levanon explained that the IIA initiatives geared to bring workers from abroad and integrate Israel’s underrepresented communities — including ultra-Orthodox and Arab professionals — aim to create diversity in the tech sector.

“The human resource potential presented by olim [new immigrants], persons with rights under the Law of Return, and Israeli citizens returning from life overseas, is sizeable,” stated IIA CEO Dror Bin. “The purpose of the selected schemes targeting this focus is to promote integration of talented and experienced olim, persons with rights under the Law of Return, and Israeli citizens returning from life overseas into the Israeli tech industry while leveraging their relative advantages, with the goal of preserving our international status as a leading global hub of innovation.”

Israel has about 32,900 open positions out of which 21,000 are for 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).

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 with a focus on integrating members of underrepresented communities into the industry. Dubbed the “Human Capital Fund program,” the IIA is allocating funding of up to 70% for what it calls “innovative and groundbreaking models” that will lead to more professional training, retraining where required, and the placement of candidates in tech jobs.

“The tech industry is the growth engine of the Israeli economy, even in periods of slowdown,” Bin remarked. “The purpose of the schemes selected by the committee is to make the world of tech even more accessible to thousands of additional employees from a variety of populations, assisted by targeted, innovative and quality training.”

Initech software services Ltd. is one of the firms selected for the most recent initiative, which will train dozens of new immigrants from Ukraine and Russia for research and development positions in biotech and MedTech.

Juan Taifeld, the CEO of Gvahim, speaks to the graduates of TheNest incubator program to help Olim set up their businesses in Israel; July 23, 2018 (Gvahim)

Another institution is AYYT – Data Updates and Technological Applications Ltd. of the HIT Holon college, which will run a new scheme to train 50 candidates with a life sciences bachelor’s degree for positions such as medical data analysts in the MedTech and digital medicine sectors.

The 8400 Health Network, a community interest group, will get funding for a training scheme that combines a practicum and mentoring for senior executives in the tech industry to provide them with the tools to launch startups or earn promotions to management positions in the bio-convergence and health-tech sectors. The network group will also train tech engineers and help them integrate into the bio-convergence industry.

BioForum Applied Knowledge Center Ltd., a biomedical training company will run a scheme to train dozens of life-sciences college graduates for positions in food tech.

Gvahim, a non-profit organization, will be subsidized to run a scheme to identify, train and help 400 new immigrants with an academic background to find employment in the tech industry.

“The development and adaptation of technological platforms and dedicated training, including in groundbreaking fields such as bio-convergence, medical big data and food tech, will prepare Israel for the evolving needs of the most innovative sectors of the industry,” Bin said.

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