Upset combat veterans are the solution to Israel’s tech shortage - opinion

To end the shortage of tech workers, Israeli companies must build a robust recruitment and development system that will give the thousands of combat veterans a chance.

IDF's picture of the year: Exercise by the IAF's Airborne Combat Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669 (photo credit: AMIT AGRONOV/ISRAEL AIR FORCE)
IDF's picture of the year: Exercise by the IAF's Airborne Combat Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669
(photo credit: AMIT AGRONOV/ISRAEL AIR FORCE)

The frustration of former Israeli combat soldiers has gone viral on LinkedIn and other social media platforms following a satirical piece broadcast by Channel 12’s ‘Eretz Nehederet’ (Israel’s Saturday Night Live). The sketch played on combat veterans being less desirable than cyber and intel vets as candidates for lucrative jobs in the country’s booming tech sector.

Tech companies in Israel have indeed mostly relied on the military’s cyber and intelligence alumni as an exclusive pool for employee recruitment. In other words, the country’s military has become an employee incubator for the tech sector.

It is certainly unfortunate that combat veterans who spend years risking it all in less-than-glamorous conditions enter the job market at a disadvantage. However, a lack of work experience hurting one’s job prospects is nothing new and is certainly not unique to Israel.

With a boom came a shortage.

The spotlight on Israeli tech companies in 2021 has focused on their success, but these same companies are experiencing a serious employee shortage. According to the Israel Innovation Authority, the country’s tech sector lacks between 12,000-18,000 workers.

 IT SHOULD BE noted that in the training process in the core technology areas, such as chip design, algorithms, software, artificial intelligence, and cyber, is long – there are no shortcuts.  (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90) IT SHOULD BE noted that in the training process in the core technology areas, such as chip design, algorithms, software, artificial intelligence, and cyber, is long – there are no shortcuts. (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

Tech companies around the world have gotten used to receiving new employees who arrive with two to three years of experience.

IDF combat veterans are having trouble landing jobs, and tech companies are growing too quickly to continue ignoring them. 

In 2021, Israel is more the “scale-up nation” than the “start-up nation.” A record 57 companies went public in 2021 and total funding for local companies exceeded $25 billion, according to Start-Up Nation Central. 

If Israeli tech companies continue to rely on the IDF’s technical units as an incubator for experienced employees, they will be stretched thin, as there is simply not enough manpower across these units. As Israeli tech companies grow, the shortage will only become more severe.

The Israeli government is currently proposing a plan to import needed workers from abroad, but this wouldn’t solve the current problem, as companies will again rely on the public sector to supply its workers.

The best solution for Israel’s tech sector is also the best solution for the country’s combat veterans. Established corporations should develop a robust recruitment and development system, like the other traditional sectors in the country. 

By investing in development programs and recruitment in post-secondary academic institutions, thousands of dissatisfied combat veterans will help tech companies compete without being stretched thin. More importantly, these veterans will find their place in a tech ecosystem they helped enable by standing guard at Israel’s borders and fighting enemies beyond them.

Many successful start-ups mature into corporate enterprises, and Israel’s workforce can mature in similar fashion. This nation’s tech sector is no longer in its bootstrapping phase. Its recruitment and employee development should emulate that of the major economic powerhouses around the world.

Joey Bendah is a program growth enthusiast with over three years of experience in some of Israel’s most successful tech companies. He lives in Tel Aviv and holds an MBA with a specialization in finance from Reichman University.