Training Israel’s Workers to Meet Tomorrow’s Challenges

The pandemic has posed major challenges to vulnerable Israelis. But JDC continues to support them through programs like "Skill Up" and the Yated network.

October 6, 2021

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A self-described “digital dinosaur,” Roee Roitman knew he needed to learn new skills if he hoped to advance in his career.

Something had to give: He’d worked the same position — warehouse operator — at the Yeruham Automation Plant, which produces robotic products, compressors, pistons, and other industrial items in the Southern Israeli town, since joining the company in 2015.

But along with the uncertainty and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic came an opportunity for Roitman — the chance to join JDC’s “Skill Up” initiative, which offers Israeli workers skills training and professional development courses.

“I came back from these sessions inspired to keep learning and improving,” Roitman said. “I suddenly understood that there was no end to the possibilities.”

More than 20,000 Israelis like Roitman benefited from JDC’s employment initiatives in 2020 — programs that were especially impactful for families facing financial hardship due to the pandemic.

“COVID-19 impacted all parts of Israeli society and its economy, but the most vulnerable were hit hardest. Low-wage and unskilled laborers were the first to lose their jobs and the last to return to work,” said Dr. Sigal Shelach, executive director of JDC’s Israel operations. “With that in mind, we’ve developed a variety of solutions for Israelis to stay relevant through the rapid changes in the labor market and make a decent living.”

Through Skill Up, Roitman gained computer know-how that not only boosted his job performance, helping him process merchandise more quickly, but also improved his morale and personal outlook. Across Israel, 65 percent of Skill Up participants have received salary increases, and more than half have been promoted.

“I made fewer mistakes. I was pleasing my employers more, which gave me a real sense of accomplishment,” Roitman said. “These good vibes filtered down from the workplace to the home.”

JDC’s employment programs help further our central objective in Israel: boosting the quality of life for the most vulnerable Israelis, fostering equal opportunity for populations on the margins, and narrowing socioeconomic gaps in Israeli society.

“WE’RE MAKING SURE ISRAEL’S MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS ARE NOT LEFT BEHIND.”

“Whether it’s through employment, social mobility, or how we address any of our strategic directions through national-scale programs, we’re making sure Israel’s most vulnerable populations are not left behind,” Shelach said.

JDC doesn’t only boost the skills of employees already in the workplace. Programs like Yated, launched in 2017, reached more than 33,000 young Israelis in 2020. The national Yated network helped ease disadvantaged young adults in their transition into the job market or postsecondary education, as well as helping to address financial or emotional needs.

That’s a story Zadok Zigdon, 24, knows well.

A graduate of an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, he struggled to find his place after getting discharged from the IDF after an injury. Support from JDC helped him complete his high-school diploma and set him on a path toward his current engineering studies and job as a sales representative at a telecommunications firm.

“I’m not used to receiving gifts like this. It doesn’t happen to me,” he said. “Even before the pandemic, I always had to fight. With this help, I finally had the opportunity to invest in myself.”

Stories like Zigdon’s prove how valuable JDC’s interventions have been in these turbulent times, Shelach said.

“In a year as challenging as the one we all faced,” she said, “it was up to us at JDC to turn the risks into opportunities for all Israelis.”

As for Roitman, he’s preparing for a second Skill Up training— a course in warehouse and inventory management.

“My first course helped me discover a whole new world that expanded my horizons,” he said. “Now I’m motivated to keep learning new things and continuing to develop my career.”

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