When the rapidly expanding high-tech industry in Israel realized that it was facing a staffing shortage now and in the future, it did what it typically does: It got a little creative.

With the help of the Israel Innovation Authority, it turned to a ready, willing and able pool of 750,000 potential candidates—Birthright alumni living around the world.

Such intellect may prove to be a partial solution to the coding shortage in Israel, which is predicted to grow worse in the coming years. Brightcode, powered by Birthright Israel, is a soon-to-launch program offering eligible Jewish adults ages 18 to 32 a free, six-month, in-depth programming boot camp, followed by a two-year paid work experience in Israel with a high-tech company.

The boot camp, which kicks off on June 12 and runs through Nov. 23, consists of five months of learning on Zoom eight hours a day, five days a week. In the last month, participants are flown to Israel to study in a designated classroom at the Experis Academy offices in Tel Aviv.

Skills taught encompass practical, in-depth training in computer programming including Python, HTML, CSS, JAVASCRIPT and React. The 20 to 25 participants in the first cohort will be fully trained to work as Full Stack developers. While there is no stipend for the program itself, participants receive the training—valued at $15,000—at no cost.

Once hired by high-tech companies, starting monthly salaries are approximately $4,000. Registration opened on March 1 and ends on May 15.

Alumni of Taglit-Birthright Israel are given first priority, although all Jewish adults in the designated age bracket will be considered. Attendees take part in an Onward Israel program and are initially provided with housing in Tel Aviv. Once employed, participants will be responsible for locating and paying for their housing and other living expenses.

‘Continue the journey across various stages of life’

Renat Wegrzyn, head of Birthright Israel Digital, is excited about the new initiative and sees it as part of the “never-ending journey to offer ways to fulfill Birthright’s mission to strengthen Jewish identity.”

CEO of Birthright Israel Gidi Mark notes that given Birthright’s extremely large database, it is in a unique position to connect motivated young professionals to the Startup Nation. “As the largest educational tourism organization in the world, we understand that we have power—not only in strengthening Israel’s connection to Diaspora Jewry but in strengthening the high-tech industry.”

Israel and the Israel Innovation Authority, led by CEO Dror Bin, are keenly aware of the need to deal with the shortage of skilled tech professionals required to maintain Israel’s technological leadership and enable its continued growth. They have begun working with citizens from such under-represented populations in Israel as women, Arab-Israelis and the haredi community. To further address this problem, Israel’s tech sector is now turning to the international Jewish community.

“I believe that Brightcode can play a significant role in helping grow and develop our pool of skilled tech professionals,” says Bin. “I call on those who meet the requirements to come to Israel, gain top-tier training and become a part of our cutting-edge innovation ecosystem for the duration of the program. We need your spirit and commitment.”

Shelly Landsmann, former general manager of Microsoft Israel, as well as an entrepreneur and Birthright Israel board member, sees Brightcode as “the perfect win-win solution.” Credit: Birthright Israel.

Shelly Landsmann, former general manager of Microsoft Israel, as well as an entrepreneur and Birthright Israel board member, sees Brightcode as “the perfect win-win solution.”

She notes that the Jewish state “will greatly benefit from enthusiastic young people from North America who can contribute their unique skillsets, including knowledge of business culture and English-language proficiency, while the participants gain valuable work experience, coupled with the opportunity to spend time living in Israel and getting to know the land and its people. I can’t think of a better place to learn and develop as a technology professional than in the competitive yet nurturing environment of Israel’s tech ecosystem.”

For Wegrzyn, Birthcode is one of many initiatives Birthright is exploring and implementing in an effort to keep alumni engaged. She says that after polling alumni, they gleaned that this group is interested in Judaism and Israeli culture, personal growth and career development, Jewish travel and global networks. “We know Birthright has a huge impact, and we can continue the journey across various stages of life.”

She and her team are currently working on a travel program, World Wide Connect, where Birthright alumni are matched with other alumni around the world and experience Shabbat dinners and other activities together. As she attests, “Birthright is good at learning and trying new things and adapting and keeping relevant.”

With all of Birthright’s new programs, their core mission of providing Israel trips continues to thrive. From May to September, 25,000 people are projected to participate in Birthright Israel trips. Wegrzyn adds proudly, “It shows the strength of the Birthright brand!”

“As the largest educational tourism organization in the world, we understand that we have power—not only in strengthening Israel’s connection to Diaspora Jewry but also in the high-tech industry.” Credit: Birthright Israel.

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