The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry is launching a pilot program to train thousands of unemployed hi-tech professionals to work in the traditional industry sector. "The program aims to place unemployed workers with quality skills and experience in the hi-tech sector in an effort to help advance the traditional industry," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Wednesday. "Our target is to reduce unemployment as a catalyst for economic growth and to advance the emergence out of the recession. The program is part of the target of achieving economic growth and advancing science and technology." The program is being funded with NIS 10 million from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and the Finance Ministry. Under the terms of the program, the Chief Scientist's Office will encourage companies to hire two workers with a background in engineering, electronics, software or natural sciences who have gained experience in the management of product development in the hi-tech sector. Employers who hire such workers will be eligible for grants of up to NIS 300,000 to cover the added salaries, including up to 66 percent of the annual cost of employing one worker and up to 33% of the cost of employing the second worker. The program is limited to businesses active in traditional industries such as textiles, leather, rubber, plastics, wood, metals, food and paper with annual sales of between NIS 10m. and 100m., and which have not received support from the Chief Scientist's Office in the past five years. The program is tailored for companies that employ more than 20 workers and invest no more than 7% of annual sales into research and development. "The adaptation of innovation and R&D capabilities into the production processes of the traditional industries will boost revenues and competitiveness of these industries and increase productivity and employment," said Eli Opper, chief scientist at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry. The program is part of an overall policy plan of the Chief Scientist's Office to integrate R&D workers within other industries. As part of this plan, the ministry is offering grants of up to NIS 60m. a year for projects in innovation and R&D.