A "Cyber Horse", made from thousands of infected computer and cell phone bits, is displayed at the entrance to the annual Cyberweek conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel June 20, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The number of students opting to pursue hi-tech degrees in universities and colleges has significantly exceeded expectations, providing an expanding pipeline to fill the worker shortage currently faced by the Israeli hi-tech industry.
More than 9,000 first-year students are due to commence hi-tech degrees later this year, said the Council for Higher Education (CHE), 6% more than the original multi-year forecast for 2011-2022.
Having surpassed its earlier estimates, the CHE – the official authority for higher education in Israel – has opted to update and increase its forecast for the coming years.
While the council originally predicted 9,952 first-year students to commence hi-tech studies in 2022, its revised expectation now stands at 11,059 students, almost double the 5,693 students pursuing such courses in 2011 and transforming the field of hi-tech studies into one of the most widely-pursued in Israeli higher education.
“The hi-tech studies revolution is at its peak, and that is very significant news for the State of Israel, the Israeli economy and academia,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chairwoman of CHE’s planning and budgeting committee.
“Undoubtedly, the expansion of the infrastructure and the increase in incentives that we have implemented in recent years – that are more focused on hi-tech tracks and less on fields with which the market is flooded – have achieved their objective in bringing about the sharp gains in the number of students studying engineering and computer sciences,” Zilbershats said.
“In light of this success, we have resolved to continue to strengthen the trend and significantly increase the incentives for institutions to expand enrollment and admit many additional students to courses of study that train them for the hi-tech industry.”
Hi-tech courses include electrical engineering and electronics, software engineering, information systems, computer sciences
and data science. In recent years, the council has approved 16 new data science courses, equal split between undergraduate and master’s degrees.
The increasing pipeline of qualified graduates is good news for Israel’s hi-tech industry which, according to research conducted by Start-Up Nation Central and the Israel Innovation Authority, has been growing faster than the local supply of talent, leading to a shortage of approximately 15,000 skilled workers needed to fill open positions.
While demand for tech talent is rapidly increasing, the supply of programmers, scientists and engineers has lagged behind. Some 15% of positions in the Israeli tech sector currently remain unfilled.
The largest numbers of open positions are in software and product infrastructure roles (31%), the research showed, with shortages also apparent in employees possessing data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence expertise.
According to data provided by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of people employed in the Israeli tech sector over the past five years has grown from 240,000 to 280,000 yet their percentage of the labor force has remained at approximately 8%.
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