Technion aims to prepare ultra-Orthodox for workforce

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technol-ogy has launched a program to integrate members of the ultra-Orthodox population into the technology-driven workforce.

Seen as an important pilot for other potential programs, the Technological Education Program at the Technion for the Ultra-Orthodox Sector aims to  engage ultra-Orthodox Jews, many of whom receive little to no education in mathematics and the sciences. This population places a strong focus on Torah studies, and employment (for men) plays only a minor role. More than 25 percent of Israel’s first-grade children are ultra-Orthodox, and the education they receive typically does not include the core studies necessary for developing technological and scientific skills.

The Technion, a training ground for engineers who drive Israel’s high-tech economy, has based the program at the Haredi College in Bnei Brak, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood near Tel Aviv, making it attractive to potential students, who tend to be married with children and reluctant or unable to leave their communities to move to the Technion campus in Haifa.

Developed at the Technion Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the new program is based on a partnership with the Israeli Mapping Center, a government institution in charge of mapping the Jewish state. Graduates will earn a bachelor’s degree in mapping and geoinformation and be granted an accredited surveyor license. The Israeli Mapping Center will guarantee jobs to gradutes of the program, which is accredited by Israel’s Council on Higher Education.

Students began the program last September, with 15 months of pre-academic studies followed by a three-year academic program. Organizers hope that once graduates enter the workforce, they will serve as role models, demonstrating that there need not be a contradiction between participation in the workforce and the ultra-Orthodox way of life.

“This program takes into account cultural and political constraints, and provides these young people with the tools needed for entering the job market, including core studies to which they were not exposed in school,” said Arnon Bentur, civil and environmental engineering dean. “By following these core studies with education for a profession, we will boost Israel’s technological sector.”