Jehuda Haddad

Needed: An emergency plan to let high-tech win

With a dire shortage of professionals, Israel must start tech education in kindergarten and bring in minorities to fuel the economy's growth engine
An student siting at a computer in the computer room at the Branco Weiss School. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
An student siting at a computer in the computer room at the Branco Weiss School. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Technological development serves as an impetus for the creation of new initiatives, startups and workplaces. Students applying for higher education know that their choice to study engineering will lead them to enter a marketable field, quickly integrate into the job market in desirable positions and workplaces, allow them to attain a high wage and advantageous employment terms and to contribute to Israel’s economic growth and to the country’s security.

The problem is that Israel suffers from a constant shortage of thousands of engineers every year, and the general demand for graduates of engineering studies and of other technological professions only increases over time. In five years, according to the Ministry of Finance’s data, we’ll be short 100 thousand high-tech employees. If the state doesn’t come to its senses and take steps today to nurture technological studies from kindergarten age, the Startup Nation will remain devoid of high-tech personnel and bereft of the big money currently being injected into the industry. The billions of dollars currently raised by tech companies would go to waste, that money will leave the country just as easily as it came here and will benefit only the tax authorities of other countries such as Ukraine, India and Singapore.

A comprehensive national plan is required; one which will invest both in education for technological thinking which encourages gender and diversity and in education for capability and self-realization, from the tenderest ages up to and including the military-national service period.

The plan recently presented by Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Education Minister Yifat Shaha-Biton for the implementation of high-tech studies from kindergarten age is a right move and a wise one, but it is not enough. The government must formulate a comprehensive, wide-ranging plan which attracts additional sectors and integrates them in the world of Israeli high-tech; sectors which, until now, have been almost excluded.

The vast majority of Israel’s high-tech employees were raised in affluent cities and neighborhoods. Most of them had the benefit of receiving afterschool enrichment and tutoring in science thanks to the financial ability of well-to-do parents. Meeting the needs of our future economy requires that we integrate additional populations into these disciplines as early as in preschool ages.

The implementation of technological education which also provides a good livelihood is the key to promoting equal opportunity and narrowing the gaps in our society – and that is what the government’s leaders should aim for.

We are currently at a crossroads. The current government has all the tools to lead a vision for training the future generation of Israel’s engineers, who will integrate into the high-tech companies, the military industry and the development of the technology of tomorrow. The state must spend considerable resources on implementing technological education from a young age among all layers of the population. We must promote a government plan for teaching computer science and the leading programming languages from preschool to senior year, to train more teachers, all of which, in addition to encouraging and supporting higher technological education, is intended to allow employees entering the job market to attain high-quality, productive employment – one which will also meet the ever-growing demand for skilled, Israeli high-tech personnel.

I have no doubt that there is a consensus among Israel’s decision makers that we as a nation and a society must raise all the resources required to train the next generation of employees in the professions of development, industry and high-tech, seeing as those professions are the source of our strength, are Israel’s economic and growth engine and are also where the world is currently heading; which will simultaneously achieve mobility and the narrowing of gaps.

About the Author
Prof. Jehuda Haddad is rector of the SCE Sami Shamoon College of Engineering.
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