A group of 150 female haredi high school students got a taste of the business world this week.They participated in a workshop on Tuesday in which they presented potential business ideas to a panel of advisers from the First International Bank of Israel who provided professional feedback and guidance for the proposed initiatives.The workshop is part of a larger program of the Turning Point project, which was established in 2007 and provides different services and initiatives for at-risk youth around the country.At the beginning of the current academic year, Turning Point, a combined project of the First International Bank, Matan and Ashalim-JDC, initiated a program designed to provide general life skills for the working environment and assist haredi high school girls with entering the job market and starting businesses.At the beginning of the year, teachers from 10 haredi girls educational institutes underwent an intensive training course given by Ashalim-JDC staff to enable them to teach the course to their pupils, which has now been running in the selected institutes since September.“Many haredi girls have a lot of pressure to leave school at 17, and most get married around the age of 18 and quickly start a family,” said Noya Baram, a senior program manager for youth at risk at Ashalim.“They also have pressure to earn money and put food on the table and so often take on basic work, such as at a local supermarket, office work, child-minders and kindergarten teachers, but their horizons don’t stretch much beyond that.”The new initiative is designed to develop a different attitude to working life and show the girls that an entire framework can be built around it, Baram continued. They can find work that they are really passionate about and through which they can continue to learn, gain more skills and work in many different fields, she said.Ashalim-JDC first approached the Jerusalem Municipality with the idea, which then helped coordinate with the haredi institutes interested in adopting the program.During the course, which is given in weekly lessons, the pupils are taught how to make connections and networks for finding employment, computer proficiency, entrepreneurship and business-planning skills, business finance, applying for loans, return on investment, public speaking and similar skills.The course is taught not as a traditional lesson but through workshops, field trips to see different professions and businesses, speakers from the First International Bank and other hands-on methods.Baram related how, at the beginning of the course, the pupils in the program were asked what they were good at and what they wanted to do in the future. The response from most of the girls was that they did not think they were good at anything in particular and had no vision for what they wanted to do in the future.When the same questions were asked again several weeks into the course, many of the pupils were able to give fuller answers. One girl, Baram said, described how she liked watching her mother sew and imagined different designs in her head. She was taken, within the framework of the program, to the studio of a weddingdress designer to expose her to one idea of where she could take her individual talents and passions in order to develop an enjoyable and productive working life. The owner also happened to be someone from the girl’s neighborhood and offered her employment during vacations to gain real workexperience.The Turning Point project also hopes to expand the program to haredi boys schools, specifically educational institutes set up for youth who have not succeeded in the traditional Torah-based educational framework.During Tuesday’s workshop, all 150 pupils – who have been developing a business idea for the past few months in groups of four – presented their ideas to a panel of three volunteers from the First International Bank.After the presentation, the panelists provided advice and input as to whether the idea could succeed at all, and if so, how to develop, adapt and improve the business plan for the best possible chance of success.Pupils with projects that were deemed unfeasible were given advice for designing a new plan.In June, the pupils will have to present a full business plan including financial planning, marketing and business development in front of the CEO of the JDC and a senior manager from the First International Bank.