The wages of hi-tech employees in the country rose some 15 percent over the last year to NIS 17,000, on average, while demand for software engineers increased 21% from 2006, reported the hi-tech and biotech recruitment company Nisha, ahead of the "Technology 2007" fair next month in Tel Aviv. "In addition to the dramatic increase in demand for software engineers, we have also seen a significant increase in the hi-tech sector for Quality Assurance employees as companies are ever-more concerned about producing the highest quality products," said Paule Tzuker, directorgeneral of the firm. According to Nisha's research, in 2007 an estimated $1.7 billion is expected to be invested in Israeli technology start-ups and international companies with operations here, leading in part to the rise in salaries of technology employees, with the biggest gains reported from companies in the communications, programming, WEB2 information, IPTV and gaming industries. Software engineers were awarded, on average, a salary increase between 21%-25%; hardware engineers reported increases of 20%-25%; the salary of quality assurance workers rose 15%-18%; and the wages of system maintenance employees grew 13%-16%, research showed. In addition, Nisha noted that hitech firms prefer graduates from the Technion and Tel Aviv University, followed by Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University and then BarIlan University and Haifa University. As far as working conditions are concerned, hi-tech employees in Israel have some of the best, claimed Nisha's report, noting that most enjoy the benefits of workout rooms and company cars as part of their salary packages. Additionally, the number of hours in the hi-tech working week continue to fall - something not in favor with CEOs. However, if companies hope to retain employees, they must continue to adapt to their needs, the report noted. "The infusion and expansion of large international technology companies here has dramatically altered the local hi-tech landscape," said Tzuker. "Today, university graduates, just out of school and with no professional experience, are in high demand." Despite attractive salary packages, as the average age of hi-tech employees has gone down, increasing numbers of hi-tech employees have a tendency to switch jobs on a more frequent basis, currently doing so, on average, every four years said Nisha. The semi-annual Technology Fair, set for June 18-21, is considered by many in the field as the most comprehensive convention of its kind. This year's event will focus on robotics, automation, new laser technology, research and development, command and control, services and equipment to develop industry and new metal working machines. More than 470 companies from Israel and around the world will display their products and approximately 50,000 visitors are expected to attend.