Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri and city officials met with local and national building industry and labor representatives last week to discuss how best to advance a plan to encourage the growing number of young job-seekers to work in the construction trade in the city, reports www.mynet.co.il. The meeting recognized that the strength of any city was measured by its ability to supply employment to its residents, and said this was particularly important in the economically hard-hit cities of southern and northern Israel. According to the report, in the wake of a recent government decision not to issue new work permits to foreigners until the end of 2010, the building industry nationwide has been worried about a looming shortage of labor. Out of the 175,000 people currently employed in the industry, the vast majority are foreign workers. Histadrut and building industry officials have proposed a plan that would encourage young Israelis, especially recently discharged soldiers, to work in the building industry by providing generous regular salaries and clear opportunities for advancement. The plan offers employment with a recognized building company at a starting salary of NIS 7,000 per month, with additional payments for discharged soldiers. Anyone staying in the job for two full years would get a grant of NIS 23,000, and motivated workers would be able to take management courses after three years and move on to a managerial pathway. Lasri last week held a special meeting in his office with building industry and Histadrut officials to discuss the plan. He said the employment situation was very important to Ashdod, and that the plan should be implemented. Lasri asked the officials at the meeting to promote the plan by holding a convention to explain its details to builders and contractors.