Lamerhak, Hebrew for “Going the Distance”, provides individual services designed to help working-age Israeli Ethiopians with support and tools to plan a career path and career advancement. The program, launched in 2014, offers participation in funding studies and vocational training, as well as job placement services. It currently operates in 12 towns.
The central challenge in dealing with employment for Israeli Ethiopians is not in integrating them into the workforce, but ensuring their advancement. Whereas the employment rate of working-age Israeli Ethiopians (aged 25-54) has grown significantly in the past decade, reaching 72% (compared with 79% for the general population), only 9% of those not born in Israel are employed in high-skilled work, compared with 39% of Jewish Israelis overall.
The program is geared to the advancement of those working in jobs for which they are overqualified, advancement of adults lacking education and those employed in unskilled and/or low-paying jobs despite their potential for more.
The program refers participants to relevant employment, vocational training and higher education, and helps them formulate individual career development plans. The guiding principle is offering a professional and educational horizon for participants by helping them create career paths for professional and financial advancement in keeping with their abilities and aspirations.
The program consists of two tracks:
- Individual support;
- Training, in conjunction with employers, and funding of tuition and living expenses in preparation for job placement. Participating employers include El Al Israel Airlines, Israel Aircraft Industries, Elbit Electronics, Israel Electric Company, Magen David Adom medical emergency services, and others.
What’s Special about the Program?
The program provides customized paths for each participant in accordance with their abilities and aspirations. It includes a highly flexible “basket” of services enabling participants to realize widely differing professional dreams.
The program builds training courses with large employers who need skilled workers and are looking to diversify their workforce from new talent pools.
The use of existing local employment centers that provide services for all eligible Israelis is designed to pool resources and de-stigmatize the process for Israelis of Ethiopian origin.
Agari Dawit, 23, immigrated from Ethiopia to Israel at the age of 18 months. She graduated high school, did her mandatory military service as an office manager in the Medical Corps, and went on to work at Elbit, a leading electronic systems defense contractor.
She wanted to pursue academic studies, but had a hard time deciding what to study and where. “I needed help making a decision, setting goals. I don’t have older siblings or parents who grew up here who could have helped me make the right decisions,” she said. An internet search came up with Lamerhak.
Her first meeting was with Tova Adhani, 32, a program coordinator in her hometown of Beersheba. “I remember my first meeting with Agari. Even after a night shift at the plant, she showed up half an hour early, wide awake, well-groomed. I remember her being very excited,” Tova recalls. Agari remembers that her voice shook.
It soon turned out that Agari was highly motivated to take up quality employment and all she needed was direction. She was torn between professions as diverse as software engineering and law and needed help sorting herself out, Tova says.
After two months of meetings, evaluation and discussions, Agari signed up for a university preparation program. She is currently in her second year of college studying to become a graphic design practical engineer and is at the top of her class.
“Tova asked the right questions, identified my weaknesses and strong points so she could support and guide me. She was at my side throughout, and still follows my progress,” Agari says.
“As a member of the Ethiopian community myself, I know the importance of counseling specifically tailored to individuals,” Tova says. “I don’t label Agari as a member of the community, I see her as a young woman who wants to succeed in life.”
Agari agrees that the individual support is key. “In a group it’s hard to express yourself. At one-on-one meetings it’s easier and the program helps you focus on your goal,” she says.
An individually tailored plan is built for each participant, who is then guided through the process in realizing his or her goals. Funding is provided for those who wish to undergo vocational training, college entrance exam preparation, lessons in English and computer literacy, basic education courses and more. Participants also take part in various programs offered by the employment and Young Adults centers where Lamerhak operates.
The Program in Numbers
Lamerhak operates in 12 towns.
Since 2014, some 1,000 Israeli Ethiopians have taken part in the program, with 26% increasing their pay by 10% or more.