Taking Start-up Nation to the next level: on IATI STEM ProjectFeb. 23, 2016
It's official: Israel's High-Tech engine is slowing down, or at least not steaming down the tracks as fast as it can, and one of the main factors holding back the sector is a lack of skilled manpower, according to a report issued last week by the Finance Ministry.
The situation is only likely to get worse. As many as 10,000 engineering positions are vacant in Israel’s advanced technology industries and that figure is growing by some 3,500 a year with only around 4,500 Israelis graduating from relevant degree programs.
How did that shortage come about? One factor is a precipitous drop in math and science graduates at the same time as the sector grew at break-neck pace, another is that the boon provided by the big wave of Soviet immigration to Israel in the 1980s and 1990s is over.
The long term solution for this is educating the younger generation, starting with kids who are in elementary school today.
Israel Advanced Technology Industries, an umbrella organization that promotes Israel’s hi-tech and life-sciences sector, is co-leading with the Rashi Foundation and the ministry a push to double the number of hi-tech workers by 2025 to close to half a million and between 20% to 25% of the workforce.
Last year the IATI began a program to expose kids from as young as 3rd grade to programming. Its success has been phenomenal. In 2015, some 60,000 elementary school pupils took part in a coding game and this year the number has jumped to 270,000. A cyber olympics for 11th and 12th graders attracted 3,000 students last year and 10,000 this year.
IATI CEO Karin Mayer Rubinstein says she hopes programs like the coding games and the cyber olympics will lead more kids to study sciences at school, to serve in technology units in the army and to go on study STEM subjects at university.
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