itworks and WeWork: Diversity in the workplace

itworks began operating in 2006 and is now taking its first steps to 'internationalize' its concept and model for diversity and inclusion
A man enters the 'WeWork' cooperative co-working space in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2014. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
A man enters the 'WeWork' cooperative co-working space in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2014. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Israel’s high-tech miracle has brought a great deal of good to a lot of people — but still, there are many who find themselves excluded from the “party.” Ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, individuals with physical disabilities, families without sufficient resources — these, and others, have been unable to get their foot in the door of Israel’s top tech firms, preventing them from building the secure, interesting, and competitively compensated  careers that can change their lives for the better.

Helping them to accomplish that goal has been the business of our  organization, itworks, since we began operating in 2006 — and I am thrilled that we have been recognized by WeWork, which awarded us a Creator Award for our work.

For us, the award could not have come at a better time. We are taking our first steps to “internationalize” our concept and model, opening a dialogue with companies around the world to deploy our model for diversity and inclusion around the globe, as we have in Israel. In fact, the award motivated us to an extent to spread our wings; awards aren’t a common thing in this line of work, and we saw applying for a Creator Award as an opportunity to raise awareness with new sources of funding, along with the possibility of trying something new. When we started the process, I started to grasp how important winning an award could be, and the potential of where this could take us.

It’s the success of our multifocal approach to job access that  we have been implementing for over a decade that led us to this award. Among other things, we offer vocational tech training in a variety of areas, with a strong emphasis on nurturing and developing personal, occupational and professional skills which assist candidates to integrate successfully into the workforce. We’ve had over 5,000 individuals in our programs, and have helped over 3,500 people find quality jobs — with 83% of them remaining on the job for at least one year. In the job training and finding business, that’s considered pretty good.

Left to fend for themselves, many of the people we help would have likely found it next to impossible to get a job in tech. Just this year, for example, we organized a program with the SQLink Group to train single mothers for jobs in tech HR, marketing, and sales. The schedule is designed to accommodate the needs of single mothers — who must work as breadwinners of their families, and take care of often young children after work — by holding classes in the evening hours, twice a week. After the course, we will help graduates develop a resume, grow industry contacts, and get interviews — hopefully getting snagged for a job that will help them support their families with dignity, and place them on a trajectory that will lead to advancement with a long and happy career. We run similar programs for Arabs, ultra-Orthodox, single mothers, residents of peripheral areas, and others who don’t have the same access or opportunities to succeed in high-tech that many other Israelis do have.

One program we are seeking to boost is our Go Local program, which trains young adults who are unemployed or underemployed for tech careers — and we decided that if we won a Creator Award, we would use the money to enhance this program. In Go Local, program participants can train, among other things, to become web developers and designers — and we used some of our winnings to develop a new website, built by graduates of our first Go Local cohort.  

Importantly, our association with the WeWork brand has done us a world of good; we had no idea how much people appreciate and respect it. That appreciation has opened doors for us in the high-tech community, making it easier to fulfill our mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in Industry. Part of the award was an office at WeWork, and this, too, has opened doors for us within the WeWork community, giving us the opportunity to have an impact we could not otherwise have achieved. But the biggest impact our winning has had was the decision we made to encourage and coach other non-profits to apply for the 2018 awards.

It’s nice to win money, but for a non-profit, the sheer ability to make contacts and develop business relationships is far more important – and that’s what winning the Creator Award has done for us. It has helped us to understand the real secrets of success: Believe in your idea, and make sure you know how to convey it to others so they believe in it as well; Dream big — but keep your feet on the ground. You can’t do much with an idea that has no traction in reality; and, last but not least, be positive- it’s a great resource for the long-haul AND it’s contagious!

Apply for a Creator Award today (deadline is TODAY, May 21!):

Alon Madar is a firm believer in the power of the community. He helps NPO’s develop resources- from fundraising strategy to digital presence and is the VP of Resource Development at itworks.

In this unique partnership between the Times of Israel and WeWork’s Creator Awards, we invite you to meet innovators from across the country and learn more about their stories and how they are making the world a better place. RSVP for the Creator Jerusalem event on June 20:

About the Author
Alon Madar is a firm believer in the power of the community. He helps NPO's develop resources -- from fundraising strategy to digital presence -- and is the VP of Resource Development at itworks.
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