Tech initiative, backed by Google, to create 400 jobs in the Negev

At an investment of NIS 15 million, tech initiative was set up to help in the rehabilitation of war-affected Gaza border communities and turn western Negev into a high-tech hub

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

The scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and caused damage in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, October 24, 2023. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The scene where a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit and caused damage in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, October 24, 2023. (Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While Israel grapples with how to rehabilitate ravaged southern communities in the aftermath of the devastating Hamas October 7 onslaught, a group of global tech giants, including Google and Nvidia, as well as local unicorns are joining forces to create hundreds of tech jobs in the war-affected Gaza border towns in the western Negev.

Led by social impact high tech venture Place-IL, which is backed by Israeli and global tech firms, and working with local municipalities, including the southern cities of Sderot and Ofakim, the project aims to create 400 new tech jobs in the western Negev within the next three years and encourage tech companies to set up a local presence there. As part of the NIS 15 million ($4.1 million) project, a high-tech workplace hub is being set up in Sderot to help integrate western Negev residents into the tech industry.

“High tech in Israel will play a key role in rehabilitating the western Negev,” said Place-IL co-founder and chairman Idan Tendler. “Alongside proper security conditions, creating jobs — especially in high tech — is an important pillar.”

“The local presence that high tech companies have created in the western Negev, and the new employment opportunities, are crucial for building resilience and hope, for the western Negev residents and the entire nation,” Tendler added.

Founded in 2022 as a nonprofit organization by Tendler, who is a senior VP at Palo Alto Networks, and CEO Keren Halpern-Musseri, Place-IL was created to establish a platform for locating, screening and placing tech workers from underrepresented populations, including Haredim, Arabs, Druze and Israelis of Ethiopian descent in the tech industry. Its network boasts 38 tech companies, including Google as a founding partner, US venture capital fund Insight Partners as a strategic partner, and IATI, Israel’s umbrella organization for high-tech industries.

Among the tech companies that have joined the project for the western Negev are Nvidia, Palo Alto Networks, Armis, Cisco, SalesForce, Hibob, Bizzabo, SciPlay, Axonius Cadence, and Imperva.

Team at social impact high-tech venture Place-IL. (Courtesy)

The program is geared at hiring employees who live in the western Negev or were evacuated from there, who will be placed in positions in development, data or support in tech companies. For the initiative, Place-IL will be using its technology-based identification, screening and placement system to help to hire local talent from the southern region in collaboration with its volunteer network, which includes entrepreneurs, CEOs, CTOs, heads of development teams, and HR personnel from the big tech companies.

Potential candidates will be graduates of local academic institutions, such as Ben-Gurion University, Sapir College, Ashdod’s Sammy Shamoon College and Ashkelon College, who have yet to gain practical work experience.

At the end of the screening and evaluation process, selected candidates will start with a paid six-month paid internship program to gain experience and secure their integration into the industry.

“We’re happy to take part in Place-IL’s initiative to support the growth and prosperity of the tech ecosystem in south of Israel during these challenging times – wherever there’s talent, we’ll be there,” said Nvidia Israel R&D site manager Amit Krig. “As one of the largest high-tech employers in the periphery of Israel, we look closely at the wealth of talent in the area ,and believe that the potential is even greater.”

According to a survey conducted by Place-IL, based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics and academia, there are over 3,000 graduates with relevant degrees, including practical engineers, living in the western Negev, who have entered the job market in the past three years and can be integrated into core professions of the tech industry.

“Once there is a critical mass of local talent, the plan is that companies would assemble organic development or support teams in the south, thus forming hubs or remote sites,” said Tendler. “This, of course, will work as part of a larger scheme formulated by the tech sector and the government to declare the western Negev a national priority area and encourage people to live there.”

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