Helping Israel’s Vulnerable Gain Employment Skills

It was only a few years ago when Amram Lider, an Israeli Haredi struggled to make a living as a factory worker in Kiryat Gat.

Often late for work, he lacked the skills for a job that could support his wife and children.

Yet, thanks to an innovative vocational program developed by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), The Associated’s overseas partner, this 25-year-old Torah scholar is now taking courses in CNC metal manufacturing. As part of the first JDC-TEVET Apprenticeship program, he has become an expert in this arena and an employee of Tuttnauer, an international manufacturer of medical equipment.

These are skills that translate into jobs that make a living wage.

“There is always more to learn. Like how to read technical sketches, the mathematics ….As a Jewish person, it is important to me to feel like I am always continuing to learn. The Apprenticeship program has enabled me to do that for the first time while I am also earning a living for my family,” says Lider.

Israel has a robust economy, with unemployment hovering around five percent. However many of Israelis are chronically unemployed, particularly Haredi men and Arab women. In addition, over 25 percent of those employed earn minimum wages.

Established in 2006, JDC-TEVET is the leading developer of employment services in Israel. By partnering with local organizations and the Government of Israel, JDC-TEVET is launching innovative, comprehensive programs that address employment services in Israel with an emphasis on the complex issues of minority populations.

By working with the most vulnerable, JDC-TEVET not only improves life for vulnerable communities, it strengthens the overall Israeli economic and social fabric.

Haredi Population

Raised for a life of full-time Torah study, Haredi men face numerous barriers in the job market. Many lack English, math and technology skills so critical to today’s economy.

As the Haredi population grows – today it represents 11 percent of the total population – so has poverty. With more than half of the families falling below the poverty line, good employment solutions to move them out are critical to maintaining a strong Israel economy.

JDC is responding by providing a number of specific programs for Haredi young men and women. In 2008, JDC launched Mafteach, JDC’s Haredi Employment Centers, supported by The Associated. In March 2016, these Centers were handed over to the Israeli government. Today the Mafteach national network serves 14 locations.

In addition, JDC-TEVET discovered that offering employment counseling and training for Haredim at a younger age can help them reach a higher career trajectory. As a result, programs address Haredim men aged 17-25 who are not interested in full-time studies have been developed.

For women, JDC has introduced alternatives to the teaching track in the seminaries offering courses for women as interior designers, computer practical engineers, quality assurance and accountancy.

Ethiopian Jews

The Haredi are not the only ones benefiting from JDC -TEVET. The program targets other Israeli vulnerable populations, including Ethiopian-Israelis. Approximately 41 percent of Ethiopian-Israelis live in poverty, compared to 14 percent of general Jewish Israeli families.

In order to advance young Ethiopian Israelis, JDC introduced the Kidum Program. Kidum works to advance clients from non-skilled positions to professional careers. Services include one-on-one coaching, vocational training, high school equivalency, language skills and placement support.

What does the future hold?

Looking toward the future, JDC-Tevet is looking to expand and renew focus on people with disabilities to achieve an improvement in their national workforce population. In addition, JDC-TEVET is interested in focusing on Israelis aged 45 plus as well as the Arabs of East Jerusalem who have unique and especially challenging barriers.

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