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More than 3,500 job openings in a variety of fields were presented to the 2,500 olim who participated Sunday in a job fair organized by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds.
Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim, said the ministry's goal was to "both lower unemployment numbers among olim as well as improve their survival at work by finding them jobs that fit their skills... In Israel of 2007, there is no place for certain professions to be closed off to olim."
While the unemployment rate among olim is approximately equal to that among native-born Israelis, the number of olim who work in the field for which they studied is significantly lower in comparison with their Israeli-born counterparts.
The Industry, Trade, and Labor Ministry reported that more olim work in jobs such as sales and manufacturing than in academic and technical professions. Ministry spokesperson Meital Noy explained that by finding olim jobs in their fields, which was the goal of the fair, "both the olim... will benefit by working in their fields and Israeli society as a whole will benefit from the [their] talents."
When searching for work in Israel, olim often encounter a number of problems. "Olim encounter two problems when looking for jobs," one manpower agency agent explained to The Jerusalem Post. "First is the language problem - olim who know no Hebrew have a harder time finding a job in their field, and we also can't place them in jobs for which they're overqualified."
"The second problem is that often, there are very educated olim who worked in fields that do not exist in Israel," she explained.
A., who made aliya from London four years ago, can relate.
"I have two Master's degrees, one in geography and one in real estate, but the area of real estate that I learned and worked in doesn't exist in Israel," he explained. "I also don't know Hebrew, which is a bigger problem than I had realized before," he added.
Many of the companies represented at the job fair, however, viewed the facts that candidates were from foreign countries as an advantage.
"We like to get English, German, Spanish, Portuguese speakers because they know how to communicate with our clients in other countries, because they know the language as well as the cultural communication rules," one Bank Leumi representative told the Post.
When asked how she thought these olim could raise their chances of finding jobs, the employment agency representative answered, "people must come with an open mind and be flexible. If people are prepared to listen to different options, it will help them in the long run," she said.
Leah, who made aliya from Russia five years ago with her two children, worked as a police officer for close to 20 years. However, since she made aliya, she has had problems finding what she calls "good" jobs.
"In Israel, it's like I'm a dishrag," she said. "I've only found work in janitorial positions or handing out coffee to workers in office buildings, but I'm worth more than that."
Leah is only several months away from finishing secretarial training and came to the job fair in order to look for work in her new field. "I definitely have hope, though," she said.
Boim was happy with the turnout at the fair. "An impressive number of olim came today," he told the Post. "In addition, our ability to gather 35 companies, some of which are very large... shows that our economy is growing today and there is a rising demand for professional jobs."
However, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who also stopped by the fair, told the Post that "A job fair is not magic. People still have to go and be interviewed... But our experience shows that fairs like this bring higher chances of finding work in a shorter period of time."
The Absorption Ministry's goal for 2007 is to double the number of employed olim, as it feels that one of the key ways for them to integrate into Israeli society is through work.
In addition to organizing the job fair, the ministry has initiated several other projects over the last few months to help olim find jobs, including professional training and subsidized studies.