ITWorks’ technology workshops and training courses seek to close social gaps in Israel (Courtesy)
After working for seven years at Cisco Systems Inc. in Israel, Ifat Baron-Goldberg got up and left. She decided it was time to move on and wanted to do something that would tie in with both business and society.
“Fifteen years ago, no one was talking about diversity of the workplace in Israel,” Baron-Goldberg said in an interview with The Times of Israel. The technology market “was booming and it is still booming. But only a few are actually benefiting from this boom. So, I decided to set up an organization that would bridge the demand for human capital and the needs of workers.”
In 2006, Baron-Goldberg, today 39, set up ITWorks, a nonprofit social startup that seeks to promote diversity in the workplace and allow under-served and under-privileged adults living in Israel’s social and geographic periphery to realize their professional potential.
The idea, said Baron-Goldberg, is to close income gaps between social, ethnic and gender groups in Israel and bring a bite of Israel’s flourishing tech scene — which has a strong presence in the country’s metropolitan areas — to places like Yeruham and Dimona, cities that suffer from high unemployment levels and a shortage of quality, high-level tech positions.
“As of January this year there were 3,700 vacancies for entry level positions in Israeli tech firms,” she said. “The government talks about importing workers from abroad in the effort to meet the demand of our high-tech industry, but we have so much untapped local talent that we could be using. ITWorks goes out to these cities and finds out what the local opportunities are. Then we match the jobs to the workers.”
ITWorks’ pool of talent includes women, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, new immigrants, adults with intellectual and sensory disabilities and members of the ultra-Orthodox community. The nonprofit organization sets up training courses, boot camps and hackathons to boost the abilities of its talent pool. It cooperates with local and national bodies as well as with Israeli technology firms to make sure its courses match both the needs of its candidates and the requirements of the businesses.
Israel’s high-tech workforce lacks diversity and is characterized by a high number of Jewish, non-ultra-Orthodox men, while women, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox populations remain underrepresented, a report by the Finance Ministry showed last month.
“Many times, even if students obtain relevant degrees that could get them high-tech jobs, they are lacking the networks and contacts needed to land those jobs. Sixty percent of jobs are attained via acquaintances. We help them make these contacts and create a network,” Baron-Goldberg said.
For those who don’t have adequate skills, ITWorks provides soft and hard skills training, including a help-desk vocational training course, Java and hardware and software development.
“It is not always easy to get to our target populations,” she said. “Many times, these are people who have lost hope in finding a job and resigned to becoming yet another generation mired in poverty.”
ITWorks also sets up workshops for its proteges and potential employers to overcome cultural gaps.
Research has shown that Arab workers, for example, lack soft skills like self-confidence, entrepreneurship and the ability to market themselves, she said. They tend not to look at interviewers in the eye and “don’t boast about their achievements.”
ITWorks’ workshops help potential employees develop soft and hard skills to match them to the job (Courtesy)
“One candidate of mine didn’t even tell the interviewer that he was on the dean’s list at university, because he was so modest. Once you explain these issues to potential employers, these gaps can be closed and positions filled, ” she said.
ITWorks recently set up an American unit, also a nonprofit, that has just started cooperating with the US freelancer site Upwork to help its proteges get jobs in Silicon Valley but still continue to live at home in Israel.
Based in Silicon Valley, Upwork has some 12 million freelancers globally using its platform to find jobs, according to company data.
“Freelancers work alone and often they don’t have the support they need,” said Baron-Goldberg. “So, we help them with their pricing strategy and if needed we provide them with technical assistance if they hit a snag while doing their work.”
From a one-woman operation, ITWorks now employs 32 workers and makes some 600 job placements a year. Customers include Check Point Software Ltd., Intel Corp., Microsoft and IBM, she said.
Baron-Goldberg was invited last month as the Israeli representative to the UN’s Nexus Global Forum, which brings together young leaders from around the world to create inspiration, dialogue and solve common problems. She has also been awarded the Hadassah Foundation’s Bernice Tannenbaum Prize for her work promoting economic justice and equality for women and girls in Israel.
A leading Jewish human rights organization has expressed its relief at the defeat of Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari – the Qatari candidate for the post of UNESCO Director General who was tainted by antisemitic links – urging at the same time that “now is not the time for democracies to abandon” the UN’s cultural, scientific and educational organization.
BUCHAREST, Romania (JTA) — When the roof of the Jewish State Theater collapsed during a 2014 snowstorm, its director reluctantly knew it was finally time to abandon the century-old building in this capital city..
Following years of neglect by authorities, the Bucharest Jewish community had fought for decades to keep the storied theater afloat. The Jewish State Theater had been a major cultural institution for Central European Jews prior to the Holocaust. Later, during communism, it was the Romanian Jewish community’s only independent institution.
Audrey Azoulay (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) chose Audrey Azoulay, France’s former Minister of Culture, as their Director General on Friday.
UNESCO’s executive board voted 30 to 28 in favor of Azoulay, rejecting Qatar’s Hamad Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Kawari, who has been accused of anti-Semitism. Azoulay must still be approved by UNESCO’s 195 members when they meet in November. If accepted, she will be the second French head of the organization, the second woman, and the first Jewish director general of UNESCO.
I am a Catalan Jew. Even though I’ve been based in Chicago for more than a year now—I moved there, of course, for love—I’ve spent most of my life in lively and lovely Barcelona, a city in which antiquity and modernity walk gracefully hand in hand. Even so, work in Barcelona has been scarce and poorly paid since the Spanish financial crisis started in 2008. This ongoing event has contributed to the rise of the Catalan independence movement among other factors. I have witnessed first-hand how independentism went from being marginal to becoming central.
Dutch documentary about the beloved Israeli fiction writer, a cult favorite in Holland, opens at the 33rd Haifa Film Festival
It seems unlikely to have two Dutch filmmakers behind “Etgar Keret: Based on a True Story,” a documentary about the beloved Israeli writer and humorist, currently premiering at the 33rd Haifa Film Festival.
Yet it is their nationality that offers filmmakers Stephane Kaas and Rutger Lemm the ability to gaze lovingly and critically at Keret, known locally and internationally for his wry, humorous short stories and essays.
The “reconciliation” accord they reached in Cairo paves the way for creating a state within a state in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian-sponsored deal does not require Hamas to dismantle its security forces and armed wing, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Nor does the agreement require Hamas to lay down its weapons or stop amassing weapons and preparing for war.
This is a very comfortable situation for Hamas, which has effectively been absolved of any responsibility toward the civilian population. Hamas could not have hoped for a better deal. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be permitted to maintain its own security force, while Abbas’s government oversees civilian affairs and pays salaries to civil servants.
A sigh of relief was heard last week from the New York Times to many newspapers and media outlets around the world, even in Israel, accompanied by a sneer toward the political right: He’s not a Muslim! Wow. It turns out that the mass murder in Las Vegas was committed by “only” a lunatic, Stephen Paddock, and one doesn’t have to be a jihadist to carry out a merciless massacre.
Reporters continue scratching their heads about what President Trump meant when he spoke of the “calm before the storm” recently as he was hosting a dinner for military commanders and their spouses. It seems clear to me that he was sending a powerful message to North Korea and Iran: change your behavior now or prepare to face new but unspecified painful consequences.
Most know the name of Israel’s famed spy group. The Mossad (“The Institute”) has helped protect Israel since 1949. Until recent years, the head of the Mossad was a secret. I well remember interviewing Ariel Sharon in 1998 at his office in Tel Aviv. After going through a maze of metal detectors, we waited in an outer room. Soon, a man walked down a hallway and stood before an elevator. He smiled and got on the elevator.
The New York based Center for Jewish History (CJH) remains embroiled in controversy weeks after it has been revealed that the new CEO, David N. Myers is an active leader of the New Israel Fund, If Not Now, When, J Street and other organizations that are hostile to the State of Israel. While Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) has Myers listed in their propaganda as an academic advisor, he claims that this is inaccurate. His writings reveal hostile-to-Israel viewpoints, including the affinity for boycotts of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian “Nakba.”