Israeli job fair looks to reverse academic brain drain

Israeli job fair looks to reverse academic brain drain

With over 21,000 Israeli teachers, researchers working overseas, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities wants to help them come home

Israeli academics teaching abroad discuss job prospects in Israel at an event sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Courtesy)
Israeli academics teaching abroad discuss job prospects in Israel at an event sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Courtesy)

Thousands of Israeli academics and researchers living and working abroad are looking to come home, and the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, wants to help them make that happen.

On Thursday, the government–sponsored Academy will run its first-ever job fair for those currently working overseas, seeking to match them up with available positions as the country tries to reverse decades of brain drain.

According to a 2014 survey by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows that some 21,000 Israelis are working in academic institutions abroad, mostly in the US and UK. Some 3,000 of them have contacted the Academy seeking opportunities that will let them return home.

The Academy has been matching up professors and positions since 2007, and so far has managed to find jobs for 500 applicants – 430 as full professors or assistant professors at universities and colleges, and the rest as fellows or lecturers in post-doctoral programs. Hundreds of others have found jobs in government institutions and programs as researchers, the Academy said.

According to the Academy, 3,027 academics abroad have applied for assistance in finding a job in Israel, 2,198 of them with doctorates and 658 studying for that advanced degree. Over 1,700 are currently working in the US, and 228 are employed in the UK. Significantly, nearly 600 are already in Israel, using the services of the Academy to find employment.

“In recent months we have been getting new applications every day,” said an Academy spokesperson.

The reasons for the wave of return among academics are varied, with many expressing a desire to be closer to family, and others saying they wanted to raise their kids in Israel. However, a significant theme among many of the applicants, the Academy said, was a distinct feeling of a lack of security, and discomfort at being an Israeli on campus today, considering the strong influence of anti-Israel groups at colleges.

Thursday’s event will enable academics visiting Israel over the winter break, as well as those who came here without a job, to meet and learn from each other on how to cope with their situation, and how to present themselves to search committees and university and college hiring directors. Officials from universities, as well as heads of research firms and top executives from some of Israel’s largest corporations – which also employ many academics in research and advisory roles – will be on hand to meet applicants.

Speaking at the event will be senior Israeli academics, including Hebrew University’s Professor Amnon Shashua, inventor of the Mobileye warning system for drivers, and Professor Avi Domb, CEO of Israeli tech firm El-Op, a division of Elbit. Also speaking will be Professor Menachem Ben-Sasson, President of Hebrew University.

Speaking to The Times of Israel, Ben-Sasson said that there were many reasons Israeli academics went abroad; there are more jobs available, and the money is better. But Israel’s objective must be to get them to come home.

“When all is said and done, Israel is still a small country, and although many academics feel they must go abroad, we have to make an effort to get the best ones to come home,” he said. “We won’t get everyone, but we need to provide them with opportunities that will provide them with the income and prestige they expect, and deserve.”

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