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January 31, 2020 1:02 pm

‘Equal Chance in Cyber’ Offers Crash Course for Disabled Job Seekers

avatar by Lauren Izso

Ram Levi (third from left) accepts an award for ‘Equal Chance in Cyber,’ December 2019. Photo: Courtesy.

The Israeli cybersecurity industry is constantly evolving, and there is a high demand for workers with the appropriate skills. A new initiative in Israel is training disabled people to join the cyber workforce.

In collaboration with the National Cyber Directorate, the program called “Equal Chance in Cyber” provides unique training for those with high-functioning autism.

The two-month course includes 250 hours of theoretical training, as well as practical learning with some of the country’s leading companies in the cyber sector. The classes are held at Israel’s See Security College in Ramat Gan, which is known as one of the best cyber studies programs in the country. Graduates receive official certification as SoC operators, with knowledge of the cyber defense field.

Konfidas, Checkpoint, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, Bank Hapoalim, the Ministry of Finance, the Israel Electric Corporation and Bank Leumi are just several of the companies taking part in the initiative.

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The first course which wrapped up in December saw thirteen graduates who are now employed at some of those companies.

Ram Levi is a former cybersecurity adviser for the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Council for Research and Development, and also the founder and CEO of cybersecurity company Konfidas. 

He was inspired to launch this initiative after watching an interview last year on the news about an organization called Equal Chance, an NGO dedicated to helping the disabled integrate into society.

Levi quickly set up a meeting with the leaders of the group to discuss how to use the skill sets of the disabled in a way that could benefit them and the cyber industry simultaneously.

“On the one hand, the disabled want to work but have a tough time finding jobs. They are often misunderstood by employers, and sometimes not trusted in the workplace,” Levi told The Algemeiner. “On the other hand, there are concerns among the employers that they themselves don’t have the resources to hire them.” 

Once receiving support from the Ministry of Labour and Welfare, the Equal Chance NGO and the Elor organization, Levi presented the concept to the National Cyber Directorate, and it was not long before more companies got on board.

Oren Helman, founder of Equal Chance, said about the collaboration, “Our objective is to create a new national agenda, and make the world a better place, by including people with disabilities in the workplace, hence, in the community.”

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age three, Daniel Vegh never thought he would be able to communicate successfully, let alone work in the competitive field of cybersecurity. After graduating from the program in December, he now works under Levi at Konfidas.

He said it was important that he was not hired out of pity, but rather because his skill set matched the job description. 

“I’m more confident than I used to be, and I’m really contributing to this country,” Vegh, now 24, said. “A few years ago, I wouldn’t have even been able to speak with people like I am right now.”

According to Levi, one key of the challenges in integrating Daniel was to make him feel at home.

“He needs a stable environment and well-defined tasks,” Levi said. “Our job is that although we operate in fast-changing environment — to minimize the changes — so he can bring out his unique abilities such as solving complex detailed tasks.”

In December, Konfidas received an award from the Ministry of Science and Technology for its achievements in the program.

“Whoever knows the way the government works knows that we did the impossible,” Levi said in a Facebook post at the time.

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