As the “start-up nation” looks to fortify its reputation as a global hub of entrepreneurship, the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) and the Yedidut Toronto Foundation’s Career 21 initiative have launched a new course aimed at fostering the integration of Israel’s Haredi and National Religious communities into the high-tech industry.

The course, “Z-Skills: From Academia to Employment,” will facilitate the entrance of JCT’s third- and fourth-year undergraduate computer science students into the technology professions by providing the knowledge and skills suited for an ever-changing employment market. Participating students will immerse themselves in a curriculum that covers workforce trends, creative thinking, and innovation and entrepreneurship while receiving practical tools in areas like interview preparation and career development.

Graduates of the course will be poised to bolster an Israeli labor market which is well-known for its entrepreneurial spirit but could use reinvigoration in that area amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The new course will leverage JCT’s track record of strengthening Israel’s labor market through working to increase technology-related educational and employment opportunities for underserved populations, including Haredim, women, and Ethiopian immigrants. JCT’s Haredi graduates have attained an 89-percent employment rate, far exceeding the roughly 50-percent employment rate for Haredi men throughout Israel. Further, 53 percent of all JCT’s computer science students are women, which is 18 percent higher than any other Israeli academic institution.

“Young Haredi men and women who are looking to build a Torah-based home and make a living turn to JCT in order to study computers, engineering, and other technology disciplines,” said JCT President Prof. Chaim Sukenik. “We are working to assist these future industrial leaders by positioning them to secure prestigious jobs in the high-tech world, the defense establishment, and cybersecurity. We could not do this without empowering our students with the tools they need to be successful in the workforce. We thank the Yedidut Toronto Foundation for placing their trust in us and generously investing in the only Israeli academic institution where such a course could take place.”

Drawing JCT faculty members from five departments, the course is among the Yedidut Toronto Foundation’s projects which aim to strengthen the education and employment landscape for Haredim in a way that respects the unique cultural and social characteristics of that community.

“In light of rising unemployment, we need to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by helping young people get ready for a dynamic and innovative employment market,” said Natan Kandler, CEO of Career 21. “The integration of Haredim in the Israeli high-tech sector is a national mission that can dramatically change the economic and social fabric of Israel, while helping the high-tech sector’s growth become more diverse and equitable. We are pleased to cooperate with JCT in order to help build an academic infrastructure that will motivate and drive this change.”

The course also marks yet another academic collaboration for JCT in the Canadian market. Previous successes include a partnership with the University of Toronto wherein JCT established Israel’s first academic program in the cutting-edge field of health informatics with an eye towards improving the quality of patient care in Israel by improving the data analysis that is the basis for clinical decisions.

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