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Changing Israel’s High-Tech Map: Government Launches Pilot For Tech Centers in Peripheral Towns

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Photo: The lobby of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Photo: Yaniv Morozovsky via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel is launching a national pilot program to expose young adults living in peripheral areas to high-tech studies as the country suffers from a shortage of skilled workers.

“The extra-curricular program we are inaugurating today will engage students from diverse areas throughout Israel, with the goal of developing entrepreneurial skills and mindsets,” said Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash Hacohen.

As the Israeli government is looking for ways to boost human capital in the high-tech industry, the program is tailored to diversify the industry by making it more accessible to Israeli youths for whom the high-tech world is out of reach.

“The program is intended to provide a response to the present situation, in which various populations in Israel’s social and geographical periphery – including women, Arab society, and the Haredi community – are under-represented in the high-tech industry,” said the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry.

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There were 32,900 open positions in April 2022, out of which about 21,000 were for technological positions, according to the Israeli High-Tech Human Capital report by Start-Up Nation Policy Institute and the Israel Innovation Authority. Geographical, social and cultural barriers are often the main obstacles for the integration of Arabs, the Haredi community and women into the high-tech workforce as employment is mostly concentrated in the center of the country.

“Young Israelis from the periphery do not even dare to dream about high-tech. This world is so far away from them, that it does not seem like a viable option for them,” said Hilla Haddad Chmelnik, Director-General of the Innovation, Science and Technology Ministry. “The new program is geared to change this equation, by bringing the world of technological entrepreneurship to their very doorsteps.”

As part of the program so-called “Entrepreneur Leap Centers” will be opened at 10 community centers across the country, to provide 14–18-year-olds with tools to think, adapt, and innovate like entrepreneurs. The 100 participants at each of the leap centers will be supervised by industry mentors, who will equip them with practical learning tools in how to create a venture of their own.

In the first year, the program will be trialed in community centers in the predominantly Arab towns of Baqa al-Gharbiyye and Tamra, the Druze village of Yarka, the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit and other peripheral areas.

The initiative opens the door for Israeli teenagers’ involvement with the high-tech industry by bringing it to their community centers and thereby to their very homes and neighborhoods so that even in the peripheral geographical areas of the country Israeli teenagers will be able to enjoy the fruits of this thriving industry,” said Farkash Hacohen. “We wish for teenagers in the periphery to think that being an entrepreneur is a viable option for them, and this program will provide them with the confidence and the tools necessary to achieve that.”

At the end of the first year a hackathon will be held for the young entrepreneurs to compete on finding a solution to a challenge under time pressure.

Earlier this month, the Israeli government approved a high-tech education program, starting from the current school year to improve technological, cognitive and digital proficiency to help the younger generation to adapt to the needs of the 21st century labor market. About 600 8th grade classrooms in around 120 schools and about 1,500 kindergartens will be part of this year’s pilot plan.

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