The Jerusalem Post
As tech hunts for workers, Arabs struggle for inroad
While Israeli hi-tech companies struggle to find good talent, Tsofen, a nonprofit organization aspiring to develop the hi-tech sector in the Arab community, believes it has a solution.
This week, Tsofen inaugurated its 50th course, attended by 30 young men and women from Arab society who want to integrate into the Israeli hi-tech industry. Tsofen, as part of its various activities to integrate Arab society into Israeli hi-tech and hi-tech into Arab society, has been holding training courses for Arab graduates of hi-tech disciplines since its inception in 2008.
The Arab population is struggling to find its place in an economy increasingly dominated by hi-tech. A recent study by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya (IDC) found that as much as 87% of Israel’s adult Arab population lacks basic digital capabilities. Just 36% of Arabs worked in technical or office positions in 2019, compared to 77% of Jews, the report said.
The number of Arab students studying hi-tech subjects has increased in recent years by 75%, but there are still many barriers they face to find tech work, despite growing demand from employers for engineers. According to the 2020 High-Tech Human Capital Report from the Israel Innovation Authority and Start-Up Nation Central, Israeli hi-tech companies had 13,000 estimated open tech positions as of December 2020.
In the last decade, Tsofen has directly assisted more than
3,000 Arab engineers in integrating into hi-tech companies, the organization said.
“Israeli-Arab engineers are the obvious answer to the needs of the industry,” said Sami Saadi, co-CEO and co-founder of Tsofen. “Since its inception, Tsofen has promoted thousands of university graduates from Arab society to integrate into leading hi-tech companies, and we will continue to do so in the future for a shared and equitable society.”
The course takes place in Nazareth as part of the Tech Bridges project to promote understanding between Jews and Arabs in hi-tech, by the American Agency for International Development (USAID), as part of the Labor Ministry’s ongoing initiative to place Arab university graduates in hi-tech industries (Forsatech), and in collaboration with Bank Hapoalim. Dell Technologies Development Center is also a partner in the program.
Separately, a conference in Nazareth on Wednesday discussed integrating more Arabs
into the hi-tech sector as a way of accelerating economic growth in Arab society.
“The boundaries of the Start-Up Nation have greatly expanded, and Arab society has every opportunity to create growth that will contribute to the development of the Arab sector and the state,” said Lior Aviram, head of the Hi-Tech Department at the law office of Shibolet & Co., which sponsored the event. “We see trends in Arab society that indicate it as an engine of growth in Israeli society. We share a country and its wealth; we need to share each other with respect.”
In 2019, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange went out and met opinion leaders in the Arab sector, owners of large companies, and suggested that they float shares, said Lior Navon, TASE director of development and markets.
“Unfortunately we have only one Arab company traded on the stock exchange today. The stock exchange should reflect the Israeli economy.”