Google to fund $25 million tech skills programs for underrepresented communities in Israel
Tech giant Google on Sunday announced a new $25 million initiative that would fund skills development programs over the next five years for members of underrepresented communities in Israel to give them a head start in the country’s famous high-tech sector. These communities include ultra-Orthodox and Arab professionals, women, and those who live outside Israel’s core areas, also known as the geographic “periphery.”
Google said it would announce a separate initiative for the Palestinian tech sector later this week.
Israel’s Arab community makes up about 20% of the country’s population, but accounts for only about 3.5% of tech workers, according to Tsofen, an organization that promotes tech activity in Arab towns and cities. integration of Arab-Israeli citizens in technology companies. . Ultra-Orthodox tech workers make up less than 3%, while the overall share of women in high tech is around 28%, according to the latest figures available. (Female tech founders make up about 10% of all tech founders).
Israel’s high-tech industry employs around 350,000 people, or around 10% of the total workforce.
The government has been trying to address the chronic shortage of talent in the sector for the past few years, as well as the lack of diversity, by promoting various programs and initiatives aimed at integrating members of underrepresented communities into the industry.
There is also a glaring element of inequality and widening socio-economic gaps. The average monthly salary in Israel for salaried employees was around 11,667 NIS ($3,710) in December, while the average salary in the tech sector was around 26,242 NIS ($8,344). Last week, the head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) described Israel’s structural challenges as being linked to a “two-speed economy” and said the country needed to “bridge socio-economic gaps”. -economic to promote economic performance”.
Google’s initiative, according to the announcement, aims to “address these challenges by providing high-tech skills programs for adults and teens to help diversify the ‘Startup’ workforce. Nation'”.
The initiative hopes to support the government’s plan to increase the share of high-tech employees to 15% by 2025, and will connect to its existing programs and partnerships that “equip underrepresented groups with the necessary skills and tools.” to succeed in technology. These include Project Adva, a two-year computer training program for ultra-Orthodox seminary girls that is run in partnership with Scale-Up Velocity, as well as a separate program to integrate late-graduating Arab students. year of engineering in high technology with Tsofen.
Google said in the statement that in 2021 it had trained more than 30,000 people from diverse backgrounds across Israel in digital skills, although it did not provide any further details.
“At Google, we believe that to have sustainable economic growth, you have to have inclusive growth,” said Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, on Sunday. “By providing members of underrepresented groups a pathway to technology, we hope to help create a more diverse workforce and increase opportunity for a broader group of people.”
Porat arrived in Israel on Saturday for a series of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian policymakers, entrepreneurs and business leaders, and Google employees. On Sunday, she sat down with women and Arab entrepreneurs and investors to discuss the various challenges members of underrepresented communities face in integrating into the high-tech industry. She was accompanied by US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, according to the announcement.
Nides said his first meeting as an envoy to Israel was with Arab business leaders for a discussion about access to economic opportunities.
“Diversity is a source of strength for Startup Nation, and that’s why I enthusiastically support this initiative that invests in underrepresented communities,” said the Ambassador.
On Sunday evening, Porat attended a women’s empowerment workshop hosted by Michal Herzog, the wife of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
Herzog organized the event with 20 Jewish and Arab students. The 90-minute workshop, #IAmRemarkable, is Google’s global initiative to empower women and other underrepresented groups to speak up and celebrate their accomplishments in their professional and personal lives.