Ten years ago, the idea that leading corporations and technology companies would be actively growing business opportunities in the Negev Desert would have sounded like a fantasy. Not any longer.

In November, for the second year in a row, more than 40 diverse employment organizations and 180 human-resources teams came together for the Negev Human Resources Conference in Beersheva, Israel. The conference was held as a medium to facilitate, create, strengthen and develop connections between organizations that promote employment in the Negev and human-resource managers, senior business organizations, industrial enterprises and leading employers in the Negev.

Organized and sponsored by the Lauder Employment Center, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), Eretz-Ir, the Manufacturers Association of Israel and Menora Insurance Group, the YES Planet Be’er Sheva Cineplex buzzed with people exchanging information and making plans for how to take their new connections into the real world and make solid, quality job placements happen in Israel’s southern region.

“Deep, unique connections such as these happen only here in the Negev,” said Pnina Abutbul, director of Employer Relations at Eretz-Ir, as she addressed the crowd.

The 2018 conference focused on employment management in a multi-generational era and the tension between the X, Y and Z generations, which is at the center of the agenda of employers in the Negev, both small and large. The nature of the event’s participants also encouraged the discussion of cross-cultural and cross-sector employment opportunities and challenges.

As part of its massive “Blueprint Negev” strategy to revitalize southern Israel, Jewish National Fund-USA has been a partner of Eretz-Ir and the Lauder Employment Center, strategically supporting its vision for a socioeconomic boom in the Negev.

Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF-USA, addressed participants and was joined by Bruce K. Gould of Orlando, FL, JNF-USA’s president-elect. For Robinson, “It’s unbelievable … that the discussion today is about how to employ different generations into the employment sector [in the Negev]. We started working in Beersheva 20 years ago, and this conference could never have happened then,” pointing to the fast-paced growth and development happening in the region, which is encouraging younger generations to stay, giving stability to the older generations already there and increasing the quality of life for all Negev residents.

“You hold in your hand the next 50, 75, 100 years of life here in the Negev—that’s how powerful of a responsibility you have. The differences you’ll make today will be felt for the next century,” added Robinson.

‘Stay and develop roots’

One employment organization working to find quality jobs for the special population it serves is Beersheva’s Olim Department that focuses on new immigrants to Israel.

Elena Linkovsky, employment director for the department, explained, “We provide support in all areas of life for new immigrants choosing to settle in Beersheva. They are a part of the rich human capital which contributes to the growth of the region, and we want them to stay and develop roots here.”

One daunting challenge for these immigrants is finding work that allows them the chance to acclimate to their new culture, and to use their international perspective and skills set.

“Events of this kind create an encounter between the two sides of the employment equation—the job-seekers and the employers,” said Linkovsky. “The discourse created here … makes it possible to bring about change and to affect the entire employment world of the Negev. It is helping us greatly improve the quality of life for those we serve,” she said.

Ibrahim Krinawi, director of professional internships at Ri’an Employment Centers, noted that “it’s so important for me to be here and look for new partners. It changes the way I think and allows for a lot of potential output on my end—I have a lot of work waiting for me as soon as we are done.”

That’s because the real work begins after the conference ends, with employment organizations and potential employers making their connections come to life by follow-up meetings in order to make the right job match.

With the help of organizations like Jewish National Fund-USA and Eretz-Ir, the explosion of Israel’s newest and most innovative tech sectors in the Negev are giving the next generation the chance to be a part of a social revolution that will shape Israel’s economy for years to come.