JDC-Tevet’s Akademaim program, launched in 2015, is designed to provide ultra-Orthodox students with internships in their fields of study and to pave their way to relevant employment upon graduation. The program helps colleges establish internship referral networks, and provides students with an introductory course about the world of work. Student internships are considered an important step toward future employment. While many academic institutions in Israel have ties with employers seeking interns, most still lack a structured internship network for their students. Internships are a critical entry point into the job market for ultra-Orthodox college students, who are often the only members of their family pursuing higher education and planning to work outside their communities.
In collaboration with colleges that cater to the specialized needs of ultra-Orthodox students, the program has established internship referral services in the fields of law, computer science, economics, business administration, industrial engineering, biotechnology and more. The program has linked colleges with companies and organizations including Intel, Bank Hapoalim, government ministries, BAE Systems Rokar, Oracle, Binat, the Israeli Knesset, Mobileye, Elad Systems, Israel Democracy Institute, Leonardo Hotels and the Municipality of Jerusalem.
The program operates on two levels:
Providing students in their second year of study with placement in a company or organization where they receive personal mentoring and acquire practical experience and professional knowhow. The internships generally run 120 hours in all;
Providing students with an academic course on employment and career issues, for which they get academic credits.
What’s Special about this Program?
The program features several unique elements in terms of employment for the ultra-Orthodox community by combining employment capability building with hands-on experience for its participants.
The course on employment capability building has won official recognition in providing academic credit points. The course includes special emphasis on preserving the ultra-Orthodox identity in the work world.
The stories of Israel, Ayelet and Avi
Israel studied software engineering at Lev Academic College. “I had no previous work experience, no one in my community works in high-tech. I thought often of trying to get student work in the field, but the demands appeared threatening and incomprehensible,” he says. Israel also had to work to pay his way so that his grades suffered, further undermining his self-confidence. In his senior year, he was offered an unpaid internship. “For me, it was an opportunity to get an inside look at the industry, to understand what was expected of me and to get an idea of how I would handle the challenges thrown at me in the real world of work.”
He is now a full-time Java programmer. “The tools with which the program provided me helped me understand where I should focus in order to get ahead, and how to improve my resume so that employers would consider me seriously. Most importantly, I found out who I am, what my abilities are and how I handle challenges. This knowledge boosted my self-confidence and enabled me to ace interviews. The contacts I made opened doors that I never even knew existed.”
Ayelet, a student at the Hadassah Academic College, interned at the human resources department of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. “Halfway through, I can already say that at every meeting I’m exposed to new subjects in the field of human resources, gaining wisdom and getting experience in carrying out tasks. The internship also allows me to implement theoretical models that I studied and to experience all the steps of an organizational change process, alongside a human resources manager who accompanies me throughout.” Along with other interns, Cohen meets every two weeks with Dr. Ohala Avinir, a mentor who enhances her sense of confidence in her professional capabilities. “There’s no doubt this is the best preparation I could have hoped for in moving from the world of study to today’s world of work,” she says.
Avi studied law at the Ono Academic College. The fears he had about an internship were allayed once he started out at a law office participating in the program. “I was very impressed by the lawyers’ attitude toward me. I acquired a lot of knowledge and experience. I learned how an office is run and how to combine the theoretical studies with practice. The internship undoubtedly affected a change in me, giving me comprehensive knowledge about the area in which the office specializes, damages. It contributed to the development of my personality and introduced me to something I had never experienced. Many thanks!”
The first step is to line up employers willing to provide internships for ultra-Orthodox students and allow the students to acquire practical experience in their areas of study. The internships also enable students to carry out a professional project for which they get credits. A team of mentors is recruited to work with the participants. The program is then advertised, mostly by participating colleges, in order to recruit suitable participants, who then undergo interviews to identify their wishes and abilities. Students are accompanied by coordinators in each college throughout the program to ensure they make the most of their internships.
The Program in Numbers
Sixty students signed up for the program in its first year, 94 joined in its second year and the target for the academic year that began in the fall of 2017 was 120 participants.
Research accompanying the program has found that 79% of program graduates are employed within their field of study or in a closely related field, compared with 60% of those in the control group.