Monday, September 10, 2007

Arabs out of Israeli high-tech

Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development reports only 2% of high-tech employees are Arab despite comprising 10% of engineering graduates; says gap due to discrimination, holds events to solve problem

Taken from Ynet news, 09.08.07,
By Tani Goldstein

According to the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, only 2% of high-tech employees in Israel are Arab, despite the fact that Arabs make up about one fifth of the country's population and 10% of engineering graduates.

The center suspects this gap is the result of discrimination, since many Arab graduates spend months sending out job applications in a field where the average time it takes to find employment is between two weeks to a month.

Arab Minority In an attempt to bridge the gap, the center held a special event in association with Personal Match, a high-tech placement company: An employment fair aimed solely at engineers from the Arab sector.

The event took plaice at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa this last week, with 20 high-tech companies in search of employees.

One-hundred-and-fifty engineers and students arrived at the fair, leaving an impression on the interviewers as one said, "These guys are no less qualified than those I've met at other fairs, I have no idea why they can't find a job."

Company prefers Jewish friend
Hisham Odeh, a 32-year-old software engineer who currently works at Bezeq's technical support, arrived at the fair in search for a better job, and described the difficulties and discrimination he has faced over the years.

"My situation today is relatively good. I have a job and have come here to better my status, but over the years I have certainly felt discrimination. In the past, when I was looking for a job, many times I would see my Jewish friends who studied with me, with the exact same qualifications as me - in the best case, some of them were worse than me - find jobs while I was being rejected.

"Once I sent a CV to some company and got no reply. Later, I sent it again, in the name of a Jewish friend, and was called for an interview. To make sure it wasn't just a mistake, I immediately called the number from which I was called for the interview, identified myself with my real name, and asked what was up. They told me the job was off the market."

Ronen Koehler, head of human resources at Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., feels there is no intentional discrimination against Arab workers, and attributes the gap in numbers to their poor recruitment, saying Arabs showed up to job interview less prepared and with less confidence.

Koehler also said the problem may be geographical sometimes, since most Arabs live in the north while most of the high-tech companies are located in central Israel. "It's a fact that there are more Arabs in high-tech in Haifa then in Tel Aviv," he said.

'We can change things'
The employment fair is just one of the many initiatives the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development is carrying out in cooperation with commercial companies to increase Arab presence in the high-tech field.

Hilmi Kitani, a director at the center, said the companies taking part in the fair said they had not employed many Arabs due to lack of awareness rather than racism.

"There are companies that are interested in changing their attitude, and we can help them. They say, yes, we made a mistake, and then we can change things. If a company has rejected candidates due to lack of awareness, we will try to increase awareness that will give them an equal chance.

"There are also problems that come from the candidates themselves. The companies report to us that Arab candidates have poorly written CVs, since they are not trained at it.

"Arab candidates show lack of confidence and lack of skill at job interviews. Therefore, we are currently holding courses and workshops for hundreds of Arab engineers teaching them how to deal with CVs and job interviews," Kitani said.

Adi Bildner, the deputy director of human resources at HP Israel is also playing an active role in the center's activities.

"This fair is fantastic and excellent, but it is only one of the things we are starting to do," Bildner said. "We are raising awareness. We are setting goals for ourselves: Each of the company's departments is setting how many Arab workers it will employ by a certain date.

"We are trying to create an Arab network in which a friend brings a friend. We go to high schools in the Arab sector, in order to abate the students' fears in advance and sow seeds for the future," he said.

So much for equal opportunities and democracy in Israel!

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