During 10 years of operation, new immigrant employment centers have helped 30,000 newcomers find jobs in Israel. The Immigrant Absorption Ministry celebrated the milestone during a Tel Aviv conference on immigrant employment in times of crisis, which was held Thursday and attended by new immigrants, employers and ministry personnel. The project, which was launched by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry in 1999, consists of six centers spread across the country, which are run by private employment companies and which provide extensive job placement services to new immigrants. Since the large immigration wave from the former Soviet Union in ended in 2002, immigration numbers have been consistently dropping. In 2008, a total of 13,681 people made aliya, 25% fewer than the previous year. The drop in numbers has meant that immigrants can receive more personalized attention. "The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption has chosen the path of guidance, counseling and placement and I think that the path has been proven to work. More than 70 percent of applicants to the centers have found jobs and I think it's that which allows a person to take his or her place in Israeli society," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. The centers, operated by Israel's leading employment agencies, Manpower, Tigbur and ORS, help immigrants find their place in the job market by strengthening their professional language skills, teaching them computer skills and English and helping them find and land jobs. The centers assist immigrants or returning residents of working age, who are either unemployed or not working in their professions and have at least 12 years of schooling. "We decided that we would stop trying to shape the new immigrant to the requirements of the economy," said Claudia Katz, director of employment in Immigrant Absorption Ministry. "Instead, we decided that we would take measures to understand the abilities of the individual immigrant, examine the needs of the job market and together with employers, reach good compatibility." Katz said that their aim was to offer career development services so as to better make use of the immigrants' individual abilities, for the benefit of the immigrants and of Israeli society at large. "We have a 76% success rate [employment of 12 consecutive months]. Roughly 38,350 people have been admitted to our centers, out of which slightly over 30,000 have found jobs. The project costs NIS 12 million a year at a cost of NIS 3,130 per immigrant and is the most cost-efficient employment program in the ministry," said Katz. She showed that government income from taxes generated by workers placed by the centers came to well over NIS 1 billion. A study conducted by Judith King of the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute to examine the efficacy of the counseling center programs found that there was a significant increase in the rate of employment following center participation "from 35% in the period of up to six months prior to or during participation to 84% after participation." The study also found that the average monthly salary of the participants was NIS 4,584 and that a considerable proportion of those employed were satisfied (55%) or very satisfied (15%) with their jobs. The survey found that 29% of the participants were satisfied and 9% were very satisfied with the services they had received at the centers. Those who were dissatisfied related this to the fact that the centers had not found them jobs or suitable jobs. "At the same time, a considerable proportion, 75%, would recommend the centers to other immigrants," said King. During the ceremony Thursday, awards were given to three companies that excelled at employing new immigrants. The recipients were Jerusalem based Upsider, Haifa based Flextronics and Vichy electronics. Awards were also given to two of the immigrant employment centers, in Jerusalem and Ashdod, for their excellence in immigrant job placement. Attendees also heard success stories from new immigrants like Sylvana Cortez from Argentina, who found a job as a Web site developer; Aseffa Wondante, who was an English teacher in Ethiopia and now works at the Vichy factory; and Vladimir Sivnov, a Russian-trained biochemist who works as a chemical engineer in Novetide, a pharmaceutical company in Haifa, all of whom were aided by the immigrant employment centers. "Despite all the optimism, I have to remind you that we are still in the midst of an economic crisis. The economic pyramid has been turned on its head and we all know that economic initiatives often burst like soap bubbles," said Landver. "The integration of new immigrants in the job market is an essential element to their absorption into Israeli society. Unfortunately, when an economic crisis comes along, the first to be hurt by its effects and exit the job market are the new immigrants and therefore it is so important to have government involvement in the job placement of immigrants."