Helping Israeli Arabs Enter Booming Hi-Tech Sector
By: Laurina Driesse
Driving along the Ayalon freeway into Tel Aviv, one cannot help but notice the many tall, modern office buildings dominating the skyline. Though quiet and brilliantly lit up at night, they transform into powerful hubs of Israel’s now legendary “start-up” industry during the day.
Israel’s hi-tech sector is flourishing, with far more start-up businesses per capita than anywhere else in the world. Despite this, there is still a shortage of thousands of qualified employees needed for tech jobs every year, with a noticeable lack of Israeli Arabs, especially at the entry-level. Arabs make up some 21 percent of Israel’s population, yet a study in 2018 found that only 3 percent of the country’s hi-tech workforce were Arab, and Arab women constituted only 0.1 percent.
On the positive side, interest is growing among Israeli Arabs in pursuing hi-tech careers. However, currently, only 15 percent of students who choose this field of study are Arab, and their drop-out rates are often high. Many come from challenging economic backgrounds away from the Israeli mainstream, leading to social and culture shock during their first year of study. Furthermore, those Israeli Arabs who complete their studies often struggle to find good jobs as many companies hire mainly by referrals, resulting in positions being filled within a tight, non-diverse circle.
During COVID, it became evident that Arab students and job seekers needed career guidance; many feared they would not finish their degrees or be successfully placed in companies. When the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem heard of a computer coding course that provides up-and-coming Arab students with an opportunity to enter Israel’s hi-tech industry, we were glad to support this initiative.
This practical course is held in Haifa. It trains and prepares about 60 Arab students each year for a successful career within the local hi-tech industry, offering an alternative or extension to their formal education. Some enter the course with a relevant degree but need more practical training and assistance with job placement. Others participate without any previous schooling or experience in the computer field, but they already show an interest in and a talent for coding.
The students also participate in biweekly group assignments. To simulate the work environment at a hi-tech company, previous course participants mentor the students, helping them solve technical problems and present their solutions to the class. As a finale to the course, the students implement a project for an Israeli employer, giving them practical job experience along with support and guidance from supervisors.
ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah Nicole Yoder recently visited this year’s class at their coding bootcamp in Haifa. The Arab students were eager to show what they were learning and share their aspirations with her. Nicole learned that Rihan has worked in the social sector for most of her career. However, during COVID she recognized the importance of technology and decided to change careers.
“What I like about this program is that I got more than the full-stack coding; I also improved my teamwork skills,” shared Rihan. She also found the program enhanced her self-study and research skills and said she learned how to perform well in interviews and write a better CV. Rihan added, “The idea that we have mentors is really great! You know that there is someone with you during and after the course. I want to develop myself, learn more skills in the hi-tech field, and eventually be in a senior position,” Rihan told Nicole.
However, moving into hi-tech does not mean Rihan has left her love of social work behind. In her free time, she volunteers at a home caring for children with disabilities and sees a great need for these children to have the opportunity to learn about technology.
“I want to open a social enterprise so I can support them to one day integrate in the hi-tech field too,” Rihan said with a sparkle in her eye. She expressed her appreciation to the many Christians who supported the computer coding program for Israeli Arabs.
“Thank you to everyone who has given,” she said. “You gave us a great opportunity. I didn’t think I would have been able to enter the hi-tech field, coming from a different field, but now I believe that everything is possible. Really, thank you for everything.”
Join the ICEJ as we help all sectors of Israeli society reach for a brighter future. By supporting learning opportunities like this coding bootcamp, you level the playing field for these young Arab students and help them find a place in Israel’s booming hi-tech industry. This strengthens and empowers the entire nation to move forward.
Support ICEJ AID efforts in Israel.