Strengthening the Next Generation
For thousands of young adults in Israel, the notion of a simple, employed life is completely foreign. Whether due to social or family problems, drug or alcohol issues or unfortunate slips into the world of crime, they may feel like the only option is to continue the bad habits that keep them from succeeding. For these young adults, JDC-TEVET has created Afikim (Hebrew for ‘horizons’), a three-pronged program targeting troubled Israelis and showing them that there is a better way to live. Outside Afikim’s basic track for at-risk young adults, it has been specialized for ex-offenders in prison and extremely high risk youth.
JDC-TEVET created Afikim in 2006 as a pilot program to help young adults from low economic backgrounds to enter the workforce. It was to start in four cities, designed to serve both Jewish and Arab citizens. Today, Afikim has been entirely adopted by Israel’s Ministry of Social Services and operates in 21 locations across Israel, providing individual career guidance and pre-employment courses to over 700 young adults annually seeking to enter the Israeli job market. The program includes 18 months of individual guidance sessions and group workshops for acquiring employment skills and basic knowledge, employment mapping and assistance finding a job.
Afikim for Ex-Offenders
In 2010, JDC-TEVET launched a second version of Afikim restructured to help incarcerated Israelis, aged 20-45, prepare to re-enter civilian life as productive members of the workforce. The program was launched in central Israel’s Ma’asiyahu Prison and expanded to Hermon Prison, in the Galilee, three years later. Participating prisoners go through workshops to learn basic employment skills like CV writing and interviewing in the two months leading up to their release.
Upon returning to civilian life, they meet one-on-one with program coordinators weekly to discuss their progress, as well as group meetings with a dozen other ex-offenders. The program helps them find work, and the support of the coordinator and fellow ex-offenders helps them keep it. Over 120 participants have passed through the program — once serving time for drug offenses, robbery and even murder — and their rate of return to prison is about ⅓ that of normal ex-offenders.
Afikim Meshalevet for High-Risk Young Adults
The newestincarnation of Afikim targets young Israelis, ages 18-25, who have very limited education and are not studying or working. Many have simply dropped out of school, national service or the army and may be struggling with drugs. Some already have a criminal record. For them, Afikim is a last hope for a new horizon. The program, launched in 2013, teaches the most basic, but crucial, skills for employment: communicating with a manager, the importance of timeliness and more. Participants have both individual guidance sessions and group meetings of about 25 people per location on issues ranging from managing finances to how to approach a job interview.
Afikim Meshalevet’s network of local employers is often tapped to help each participant find a job, and the program staff ensures that the process is as smooth as possible. The program, which has reached 120 participants so far, includes six months of intensive, weekly meetings and an additional six months of follow-up guidance once the participant has found work. The model is working — 79% of participants remained employed for at least 9 months.