Army teams up with industry to fill gaps in workforce

It seems that young people today, whether just out of the army, or with a bachelor's degree in hand, lack the skills necessary to take on those jobs that companies are desperate to fill.

tough idf soldiers 88 (photo credit: )
tough idf soldiers 88
(photo credit: )
Ask most young people what it's like to look for a job, and you are likely to get the same answer: There are almost no decent-paying posts available, and the ones that are tend to be low-skill work in areas such as customer service, telemarketing or security. But if you ask trade organizations about the employment situation, they will tell you an entirely different story - about how entire sectors, from construction to hitech, are thirsting for young, qualified workers. So where's the catch? It seems that young people today, whether just out of the army, or with a bachelor's degree in hand, lack the skills necessary to take on those jobs that companies are desperate to fill. Israel's brain drain, where the highest level of employees are enticed by overseas jobs with higher pay and lower taxes, has received plenty of press coverage. But the problem for employers looking for middle and lowlevel employees with technical training is less a brain drain than a brain drought. As Israel Manufacturers Association's head Shraga Brosh has it, changing educational priorities have led to serious cuts over the past 15 years in the high school occupational training that used to provide mediumlevel skilled workers. In addition, there has been a demographic explosion in those sectors where education in the basics needed for the modern workplace is sub par - particularly, in the haredi and Arab populations. Now, the IDF is teaming up with industry to help fill in those gaps - and provide newly-released soldiers with tickets to well-paying jobs. The Ma'alot program, now in the pilot phase, has new recruits being trained in skills that the army can use, such as computer chip engineering or heavy-machinery repair. Ma'alot brings combines input from the Manufacturers Association and the state to make sure the soldiers will meet the needs of the army, and, after release, of commercial firms. Another program is TOV, which is designed to produce certified technicians with high school matriculation. The program focuses on those vast swaths of society which have traditionally stood at the periphery of the workforce - whether they be new immigrants, Arabs or haredim. Some in industries that generally require lower skills levels are also being forced to find new ways to recruit employees. The construction sector currently has about 120,000 workers, but is desperate for 20,000 more. While it is not easy to tempt people to a sector that promises hard work and low pay, the Histadrut Labor Federation's division for construction workers is hoping that taking aim at newly released soldiers will help put more young people into the field - and off the unemployment rolls. The Histadrut's plan, which is being tested in Ashdod, includes training the newly released soldiers for sixth months and sweetening the deal with signing bonuses or an initial sixmonth salary of NIS 6,000 a month. But it is clear that to make real progress in filling the industry's labor shortfall there will need to be a major improvement in salaries, not just starting offers.