Staying the Start-Up Nation

The Start Up nation might be in danger as tech companies grapple with a severe shortage of at least 10,000 engineers and software programmers over the next decade.

CHEF HAIM COHEN tries to make a falafel in a reenactment of space for the Science and Technology Ministry’s Space Week activities, which are launched on January 28, 2018.. (photo credit: screenshot)
CHEF HAIM COHEN tries to make a falafel in a reenactment of space for the Science and Technology Ministry’s Space Week activities, which are launched on January 28, 2018..
(photo credit: screenshot)
TNT - that, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the reason countries flock to Israel.
They want to learn from Israel’s experience fighting “Terror” and draw from Israel’s amazing “Technology.”
The Start-Up Nation, as Israel is often touted, is an amazing feat. In the 70 years since the State of Israel was established, the country has taken a desert and grown it into a technological powerhouse with over 5,000 start ups and hundreds of multinational corporations – like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Google and more – which have set up a presence here to glean from the local talent and ecosystem.
At the same time, the development of a powerful high-tech sector has changed the breakdown of Israel’s exports. Back in the 1950s, Israel was exporting oranges, dentures and stovetops. Today, technology makes up 50 percent of the country’s exports, as well as close to 15 percent of the nation’s economic output.
There is software, cybersecurity, IT, drip irrigation, life sciences, medical devices and more.
But, as Jerusalem Post Business Reporter Max Schindler wrote last week, all of that might be in danger as tech companies grapple with a severe shortage of at least 10,000 engineers and software programmers over the next decade. Due to the shortage, some firms are looking to move their companies abroad.
This means that not only will Israelis miss out on potential jobs since the companies won’t be in Israel, the entire Israeli economy will miss out on an engine of growth that impacts different markets and industries in the country far and beyond the actual people who work in the tech sector. In 2017, for example, Israel dropped six spots to 17th in the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the ease of finding skilled technology employees.
Schindler wrote about his recent visit to the Vilnius offices of Wix, an Israeli company, which is expanding in Lithuania due to the shortage of web developers in Israel. Other Israeli companies are also looking at Eastern European countries to hire computer programmers who are paid significantly less than their Israeli counterparts, whose salaries have increased nearly 40% over the past decade. This makes setting up new companies more difficult that it should be.
These problem will not solve themselves. The country needs to incentivize high school and university students to study computer programming and engineering.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett launched a program when he first took office in 2015 to get more high school students to study advanced mathematics.
Last month, he revealed the numbers: More than 18,000 students studied five points for their mathematics matriculation exams this year as opposed to around half three years ago.
While this program has been a resounding success, it is not enough to stem the tide on its own. To keep tech companies in Israel and get more to come, the government needs to get involved.
One solution is to finally allow the so-called “expert” visa that let foreign expert computer programmers and engineers, as an example, to relocate and work in Israel. This would allow companies to hire programmers and engineers from across the world, including India, the United States and Europe.
The problem is that the government is not approving the requests. As one lawyer told The Post: “It’s not good enough to declare that we’ve opened the sky for professional workers to the hi-tech [realm]. We haven’t seen an increase, nothing yet. We are waiting two or three months, and all the requests are stuck in Jerusalem.”
Another possible solution could be the integration of new pools of talent into the workforce with a special emphasis on tech. The first are Israeli-Arab women; the second are haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men.
Both are sectors of society that are slowly opening up to employment and with the right incentives and training programs, could be serve as a much-needed boost for an industry in need.
The Start-Up Nation is in jeopardy. Its time to take action to protect and preserve it.


Tags high tech