A delegation of more than 100 Jewish leaders visited Beersheba this week as part of the 45th annual Conference of Presidents (COP) Leadership Mission to Israel, and toured the four-year-old Lauder Employment Center.
The center, established in cooperation with philanthropist Ronald S. Lauder, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents and current president of the World Jewish Congress, and with JNF-USA and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), finds jobs for students to ensure they remain in the region after completing their studies.
Avi Balashnikov, Lauder’s representative in Israel and former CEO of the Knesset, spoke of plans and aspirations for the center. “Ben-Gurion’s dream is coming closer to reality. The Negev is not just Israel’s future, it is its present,” he said.
“Half of Israel’s engineering students study at Ben-Gurion University yet only a fraction stay because of doubts that they can find a job,” he said, as an example of the importance of the center to the region and the need to harness the untapped potential of the city. ”We are attracting leading high-tech companies to Beersheba to build a 21st century job market.”
Founded in 2015, the center works with 300 Negev-based companies. Over 350 young adults have access to a WhatsApp group that connects them with up to 90 job opportunities per month. Among the young adults are Bedouins, who constitute one third of the Negev’s population.
Lauder greeted the mission participants via a prerecorded video, saying, “Seventy years ago, after making Herzl’s dream a reality, David Ben-Gurion professed his own dream: a future of Israel that lives in the Negev. Those words were visionary.”
Prof. Daniel Chamovitz, BGU’s president said, “When you see the ecosystem we’ve built here in Beersheba, it’s quite marvelous and a perfect storm for helping the Negev.” He was referring to the synergy between the university and the emerging cyber tech hub in the city, including such companies as CheckPoint, Microsoft, Cisco and HP.