Program Integrates Israeli Ethiopians into High Tech

Israel is rightfully proud of the operations that brought the Ethiopians from their country as brothers. Unfortunately, as the recent protests so clearly stated, the state has failed at integrating the 120,000 Ethiopian Jews into Israeli society. 65% of their children live in poverty, 56% are dependent on welfare, 13% are unemployed, and only 43 pass their matriculation exams. A new initiative is intended to remedy that by training Ethiopians for careers in high-tech.

Tech-Career was established in 2004 by an Ethiopian-Israeli — Asher Elias. The center aims to train youngsters of Ethiopian origin in those high-tech professions which are most sought after. It is not an easy task, evidenced by only 4 out of 19 students in the first class completing the course. The program now graduates 60-80 students each year in software development, application development and network administration.

The program is successful, evidenced by 70% of the 450 graduates — a little more than 300 Ethiopians — have integrated into the Israeli high-tech industry. This is despite the worthy effort being underfunded by the government. Government support is only 20% of the organization’s annual budget. Another 30-40% comes from Jewish federations and foreign foundations, and the rest from private donors in Israel. It should be noted that the program was initiated by private citizens from within the community and not by the government. All this seems to affirm the claims made in the recent protests by the Israeli Ethiopians.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Naftali Abraham, who replaced Elias, spoke about the lack of government funding.

“If we had a bigger budget, we could open more classes. It saddens me that this initiative was created by an Ethiopian nonprofit organization and not by the state itself,” says Abraham. “Instead of the state embracing me and deciding to double the number of graduates, I’m sweating blood and begging for resources. After all, every graduate of ours who integrates into the high-tech sector leaves the cycle of poverty. His family will also get a better education, better housing, and who benefits from this if not the government?” he wonders.

The timing for this initiative is critical. In a 2010 survey, it was discovered that nearly 40% of the Ethiopians in Israel were under the age of 18. A slight push in training and education at this time would prevent a cycle of poverty from beginning.

Located on Kibbutz Nachshon, Tech-Career is a professional not-for-profit organization that specializes in technology training and placement in the high tech industry. Beginning in 2010, Tech-Career is a certified Microsoft IT Academy and training courses are approved by the Ministry of Industry Trade & Labor. Tech-Career works in partnership with various organizations from all 3 sectors, including government ministries, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, private donors, foundations and Jewish federations in Israel and globally. Tech-Career’s Board of Directors and Advisory Board consist of business executives and prominent members of society, who voluntarily contribute their efforts and experience to further the organization’s goals.

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