Theory vs. reality

A finance study program bridges the gap between academia and practicality.

Lior sultan 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
Lior sultan 370
(photo credit: courtesy)
When he turned to the job market after graduating with a BA in business in 2006, Lior Sultan couldn’t wait to finally make use of his knowledge.
But as he started working in the hi-tech industry, he found that there was in fact a significant gap between the theoretical subjects he studied and what was asked of him in the workplace.
“The problem is global,” he explained. “You invest time, money, effort and you study an interesting degree, but it’s not preparing you for work.” This realization led him to found the Practical Economist course, a three-month program aimed at bridging the gap between academia and practicality.
“In each class there are two staffers, people who have experience in the field of finance. We just try to give the student an opportunity to get hands-on experience,” Sultan said, “It’s basically a simulation of the workplace. We teach them what they will be asked to do, and prepare them to take a final test in the relevant software and skills.”
The course, which costs NIS 4,000, teaches students to read financial documents and use relevant computer programs such as Microsoft Excel. It also gives them insight into what companies require and their methods of work.
The second part of Sultan’s project involves helping the graduates find a job.
“We tell the company that we give them a warranty. They can take the student in, and If they are not happy with his work, they can ask us to be reimbursed for his salary, up to NIS 10,000,” he explained. “It just means that we really believe in our method and it lets the workplace feel fine with hiring them, and so far, we haven’t had any cases of dissatisfaction.”
Yaniv Choma, who enrolled in the course after earning his BA two years ago and who works as a financial consultant, is one of the graduates who now also teaches at Practical Economist.
“When they first come in, people don’t know much at all, even people who already work in the industry show up with very little knowledge,” he noted.
“Having the degree is very, very important, I won’t argue the contrary, the tools that you learn there are very strong. But when you take those tools and learn some practicality, you can use them for real,” he added. “It’s another piece of the puzzle.”
Choma explained that bringing a personal touch to his teaching is very important to him: “We start slow. I like to sit with my students even after class hours and answer questions.”
As they attend classes at Practical Economist, students are required to bring their own computer and analyze case studies from the business sector in class. In addition, as practice, the course provides them with internal exams given to employees in different companies.
“People don’t know much at all when they first arrive,” Choma said. “Even people who are from the industry and work in the industry come and their knowledge is just very low, so we take the time.”
Shiri Tempelhos, who finished the course last November, said she found it to be useful to her professional path.
“What you learn in academia is very different from what you learn here. The workplace and the experience you gain from working will teach you the same things, but in this economy, it is an advantage to know it before being hired,” she told The Jerusalem Post last week.
“I really think it gives me an advantage in comparison to other finance graduates applying for the same jobs,” she continued.
“For me it is very fulfilling when I sit and prepare a student professionally and see the results they achieve,” Sultan said, “I believe in this program very much.” According to Sultan, some of the graduates of the program have gone on to work for hi-tech companies such as Intel or Amdocs.