The Israeli high-school kids earning high-tech salaries

Cyber-ed program gives youth from peripheral areas training for well-paying positions at major companies even before they enter the army.

Binyamin Houri, 17, from the southern working-class city of Netivot, skipped a grade and now works at Dynamic Yield as a programmer while his peers finish high school. Yotam Salomon, 17, from Kiryat Ata in the Haifa district, has been working during school holidays and in his spare time for the past three years developing software for 3D printers at a local startup.

“I never felt like a child who is being told what to do – what I think and say always matters. I am treated just like any other worker,” says Yotam, who completed his matriculation exams in math, English and computer science ahead of schedule.

Binyamin and Yotam are graduates of a national cyber-education program, Magshimim, operated by the Cyber Education Center of the Rashi Foundation to train youth from Israeli periphery regions as cyber-tech professionals.

The program helps them train for fruitful careers and also addresses Israel’s growing dearth of qualified high-tech workers.

Among Magshimim’s 234 graduates last year, 61 worked in high-tech companies even before starting their military service after high school.

Fifteen Magshimim grads work part time at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in information security, cybersecurity operations centers, programming and QA testing.

Other teens are employed at Aqua Security, CyActive, Check Point Software Technologies, Deutsche Telekom, VIA, Hysolate and additional high-tech firms.

Their average hourly salary is ₪50 (about $14), nearly twice the Israeli minimum hourly wage of ₪28.50 and 2.5 times what their peers make in various odd jobs. When they work full time – for example, during the summer or before drafting into the military – they earn an average ₪10,000 per month, about the same as the average Israeli adult.

According to Magshimim data, 92 percent of the placements last year were at the companies’ initiative, based mostly on recommendations and “bring a friend.” Since the beginning of this year, there has been at least one inquiry per week about recruiting youth from the program.

“The collaboration with the companies represents a win-win situation – the students get a chance to gain valuable experience in high-tech and cyber-tech fields, while the companies benefit from the addition of excellent and energetic young people to their workforce,” said Sagi Bar, director of the Cyber Education Center. “This connection also creates social value, through the increased representation of the periphery in the high-tech industry.”

On February 22, Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, National Cyber Bureau Chief Yigal Unna, and former Chief of Staff and Rashi Foundation Chairman Gabi Ashkenazi came to the Magshimim Ultimate Challenge event in Ra’anana celebrating 1,000 graduates since the program was founded in 2010.

Magshimim was established in partnership with the Ministry of Defense in an effort to increase the representation of young people from the periphery in the cyber and Intelligence units of the IDF and in the high-tech industry. The program also has the support of the Prime Minister’s Office, the National Lottery Fund, and the Adelis, Daniel and Davidson Foundations.

About the Author:

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.

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