ICEJ AID with Arab students in coding bootcamp course

Computer coding course opens new doors for 60 promising students
By: Laurina Driesse

Driving along the Ayalon freeway into Tel Aviv, one cannot help but notice the many tall, modern office buildings dominating the skyline. All quiet and brilliantly lit up at night, yet during the day they transform into powerful hubs of Israel’s now legendary ‘Start-Up’ industry.

Israel’s hi-tech sector is flourishing, with far more start-up businesses per capita than anywhere else in the world. Despite this, there is still a shortage of thousands of qualified employees needed for tech jobs every year, with the lack of Israeli Arabs especially noticeable at the entry level.

Arabs make up some 21% of Israel’s population, yet a study in 2018 found that only 3% of the country’s hi-tech workforce were Arab, and Arab women constituted only 0.1%.

On the positive side, there is a growing interest among Israeli Arabs to pursue hi-tech careers. However, only 15% of students who choose this field of study currently are Arab, and their drop-out rates are often high. Many come from backgrounds of economic hardship away from the Israeli mainstream, leading to social and culture shock during their first year of study. Those Israeli Arabs who do complete their studies then struggle to find good jobs as many companies hire largely by referrals, resulting in positions being filled within a tight, non-diverse circle.

During the Corona crisis, it became evident that Arab students and job seekers needed career guidance, as many feared they would not finish their degrees or be successfully placed in companies.

Arab students Coding bootcamp course

When the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem heard of a computer coding course that provides up-and-coming Arab students with an opportunity to enter Israel’s hi-tech industry, we were glad to support this initiative.

This practical course is held in Haifa, and it trains and prepares some 60 Arab students each year for a successful career within the local hi-tech industry, offering an alternative or extension to their formal education. Some enter the course having a relevant degree but need more practical training and assistance with job placement. Others participate without any previous schooling or experience in the computer field, but they already show an interest and talent for coding.

In the first phase of the Bootcamp course, all sixty students learn basic computer science and front-end JavaScript. Then in the second phase, forty students have the opportunity of furthering their skills in Full-Stack JavaScript.

The students also participate in bi-weekly group assignments. To simulate the work environment at a hi-tech company, the students are mentored by previous course participants, solve technical problems, and present their solutions to the class. As a finale to the course, the students implement a project for an Israeli employer, giving them practical job experience along with support and guidance from supervisors.

At the end of the year, all 60 Arab students will graduate with a program diploma. Twenty of them will be experts in front-end JavaScript and forty will master Full-Stack JavaScript and project scoping.

Nicole Yoder with Arab students

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ Vice President for AID and Aliyah, recently had an opportunity to visit this year’s class at their coding bootcamp in Haifa. The Arab students were eager to show what they are learning and share their aspirations with her.

In speaking with Rihan, Nicole learned that she has worked in the social sector for most of her career. However, recognizing the importance of technology during the Corona crisis, she decided to make a career change and go into hi-tech.

“What I like about this program is that I got more than the Full-Stack coding; I also improved my teamwork skills,” shared Rihan.

She also found her self-study and research skills were enhanced, while she also learned how to perform well in interviews and write a better CV.

Rihan added “the idea that we have mentors is really great! You know that there is someone with you during and after the course.”

“I want to develop myself, learn more skills in the hi-tech field and eventually be in a senior position,” Rihan told Nicole.

However, moving into hi-tech does not mean Rihan has left her love of social work behind. In her free time, she volunteers at a home caring for children with disabilities and sees a great need for these children to have the opportunity of learning about technology as well.

“I want to open a social enterprise, so I can support them to one day integrate in the hi-tech field too,” Rihan said with a sparkle in her eye.

Reflecting on all she has gained in the course, Rihan expressed her appreciation to the many Christians who supported the computer coding program for Israeli Arabs.

“Thank you to everyone who has given,” she said. “You gave us a great opportunity. I didn’t think that I would have been able to enter the hi-tech field, coming from a different field, but now I believe that everything is possible. Really, thank you for everything.”

Join with the ICEJ as we help all sectors of Israeli society reach for a brighter future. By supporting learning opportunities like this coding bootcamp, you level the playing field for these young Arab students and help them find a place in Israel’s booming hi-tech industry. This strengthens and empowers the whole nation to move forward together.