How to encourage tech aliya

New immigrants / Photo: Sasson Tiram

The government plans to fill Israel's technology worker shortage from the Diaspora. "Globes" offers some tips.

Yesterday, at its weekly meeting, the Israeli government approved a decision to formulate a plan to encourage Jews around the world employed in technology, particularly engineering, to immigrate to Israel. According to figures published by the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and the Jewish Agency, over 3,100 people in technology and engineering are currently applying to come to Israel, but the real potential of technological aliyah is estimated in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

Official figures put the shortage of workers in the technology industry in Israel at 14,000, of which software engineering accounts for 10,000, but the actual shortage is even greater. Many jobs can sustain more than one person, and if the right people are found, the large amounts of capital raised by the technology companies will enable them to hire even more workers than immediate need dictates, in order to lay foundations for future growth.

The government decision calls for the setting up of an inter-ministerial team to serve as a "Jewish Agency" for techies. Its remit will be to find Jews with professional training in engineering and technology and encourage them to immigrate to Israel, to bring Israeli tech workers living overseas back to Israel, and the training or retraining of Jews in their countries of origin or after they reach Israel. It was also decided to set up a placement mechanism to assist in mediating between potential candidates and workplaces in Israel.

Even before the committee has been set up and succeeded, it has found many fathers and mothers. The proposal was put together by Minister of Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, and Minister of Finance Avigdor Liberman, together with the Prime Minister's Office. The committee that will arise as a result will comprise several directors general of government ministries, headed by the director general of the Prime Minister's Office, with participation by representatives of the Ministry of Economy and Industry and the National Economic Council.

Farkash-Hacohen said that the decision would dovetail with the government plan for solving the problem of the shortage of manpower in Israel's technology industry being prepared by the human capital team set up in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, and with the tax incentives program for bringing new immigrants and returning Israelis from overseas to work in the industry.

Until the new team formulates its recommendations, here are five observations worth applying:

1. Widen the focus beyond engineering. True, a few tens of thousands of AI, cyber and data engineers are the ones who generate the added value of the local industry, but they are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people in software development, product development, marketing, sales, logistics and service.

Therefore, focusing on physicists, computer engineers, and software and hardware engineers among the new immigrants will be a mistake. US and European technology companies employ hundreds of thousands of Jewish workers in all areas of technology life. Every such immigrant, even if he or she is a salesperson with a degree in the humanities, or a customer service manager with no higher education at all, is a net gain for the State of Israel.

2. Approach students of all ages in all disciplines. The thirst for tech workers with English as mother tongue is so great that in practice anyone Jewish from Britain or America or any English speaking country will quickly fit into the Israeli technology industry if they have any sense in their heads.

That's the case even if the person concerned has no academic degree or studied in some obscure college in the US Midwest. Israeli technology companies employ countless people from English-speaking countries (or Israelis who grew up overseas) in marketing, content writing, sales and service roles, people who in their countries of origin studied disciplines such as literature, art, and languages.

3. Let them start working remotely. Despite the understandable motivation to bring Jews to the Holy Land, many will be daunted by the idea of making the move immediately. Make contact with potential candidates through LinkedIn, and let them start working with an Israeli company remotely, on Zoom. It could be the start of a wonderful friendship with Israeli teams that could end with the person immigrating. In that way the pool of potential <i>olim</i> could be substantially increased.

4. Construct a program for finding kindergartens, schools, health funds, and relocation services. Many corporations like Amazon and Microsoft help their employees to move from country to country, providing services such as finding schools and kindergartens for their children and subsidizing removal costs. Take that as a model.

5. Don't stop at Jewish olim. Encourage the entry of foreign workers to work in Israel's technology industry. Exploit the unique make-up of the government to help the many engineers who would be happy to work for a few years in Israel's technology industry - even if not permanently - to come to Israel and contribute to the country's most prosperous and successful sector. This would also help in forming better collaborations in the future with overseas companies, and would make the Israeli industry even more powerful.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 18, 2021.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2021.

New immigrants / Photo: Sasson Tiram
New immigrants / Photo: Sasson Tiram
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