Operators selected to run boot camps to teach coding amid worker pinch

The country badly needs programmers, and the training courses aim to churn out some 2,000 highly qualified ones over the next five years

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

Illustrative image of a woman using a laptop computer. (Sophie Gordon/Flash90)
Illustrative image of a woman using a laptop computer. (Sophie Gordon/Flash90)

Israel’s Innovation Authority, in charge of setting out the nation’s innovation policies, has selected seven operators to run “coding boot camps” that aim to intensively train some 2,000 highly qualified computer programmers over the next five years.

Israel, known as Startup Nation, is feeling the pinch of an acute shortage of engineers and programmers to fuel its booming tech industry. The shortfall of manpower could hamper the growth of a sector that has powered Israel’s economy for more than a decade, industry heads, analysts and government officials have warned.

The coding camp program is part of a number of steps the government is taking to meet the challenge of this worker pinch. These include increasing the number of relevant classes at the universities, with bigger budgets going to these institutions; pushing more high school students to take higher levels of math and sciences; and coming up with plans to tap into the underutilized pool of Arab and ultra-Orthodox workers. In addition, the government is making it easier for highly skilled foreign workers to get visa permits and is planning to attract a greater number of new immigrants relevant to high tech to Israel.

“This program is a significant step toward increasing the supply of manpower in high-tech and is expected to generate 280 graduates in the first year,” which is about 10% of the annual number of university graduates in high-tech subjects, said Ami Appelbaum, Israel’s chief scientist and the chairman of the Innovation Authority.

Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen, left, with the chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority, Ami Appelbaum (Israel Innovation Authority)

The seven operators were selected in a competitive process out of a shortlist of 24. They will be responsible, over a period of three years, for recruiting students with high potential, provide them with high quality training and help them integrate into development positions in the high-tech industry. These operators will be rewarded for their efforts on a “pay for performance” basis, in which they get paid only if their graduates get jobs in software development positions at a salary level exceeding NIS 14,000. Compensation will rise with the salary levels. In addition, the boot camp operators will get grants for the successful placement of graduates from diverse backgrounds, including women, people aged 45 and over, Arabs, Haredim, Ethiopian immigrants and people with disabilities.

The goal is to create an alternative route to joining the high-tech workforce, focused on market needs, in a maximum 12-month training track. The program includes a full-time practical internship.

The first coding boot camps appeared in the US in 2012, and have proven to be effective, the Innovation Authority said in a statement. Eighty percent of US high-tech companies have recruited coding boot camp graduates, and their satisfaction level is high. Some 84% of employees in the US have said that boot camp graduates are suitable for the job and sometimes better than university graduates, the statement said.

The seven operators are a mix of nonprofit organizations, promoting diversity in the high-tech sector, and educational training frameworks: Appleseeds Academy, Infinity Labs R&D, ITC–Israel Tech Challenge, Experis Software, Elevation Academy, Primrose and Kav Mashve.

The boot camp initiative was set up with the collaboration of the Ministry of Economy and Industry , the Israel Innovation Authority, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, the Ministry of Finance, the National Economic Council, the Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) and senior executives from the business sector.

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