The Economic Affairs Committee discussed on Wednesday the government`s plan to import foreign engineers. The meeting was held at the request of MKs Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Camp), who also chaired the meeting, Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beitenu), Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) and Ayman Odeh (Joint List). The meeting was called following a report that the government is planning to issue employment visas for foreign engineers. According to the report, the plan is designed to overcome the shortage of high-tech workers in the country, especially software engineers.
”This is a crazy idea,” said Nahmias-Verbin. ”Soon we will begin to import citizens from abroad. We must think of other solutions to the shortage [of engineers], such as integrating workers over the age of 40 who left the high-tech industry, as well as integrating Arabs, ultra-Orthodox and women.”
Shlomo Waxe, director general of the Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries, echoed Nahmias-Verbin`s sentiments, saying ”We must first utilize the potential of the workers in Israel.” According to him, more than 5,000 professionals who are suited to work in high-tech are currently registered at the Israeli Employment Service, ”but companies are not willing to hire them due to lack of experience or training. They are the ones we should be taking care of.”
Erez Tzur of the Israeli Advanced Technology Industries umbrella organization noted that career retraining can be completed in only six months, adding that it should be carried out alongside intensified science studies in schools, ”which could provide a long-term solution.”
Uri Pinchasi, chairman of the Amdocs workers` committee, said he has not detected a shortage of engineers during his 16 years in the industry. ”If we bring India [to Israel], it will be a death sentence,” he told the committee.
Student Union representative Nasat Damlachi studies at ORT Braude Academic College of Engineering in Carmiel, where 40% of the students are from the Arab sector. ”They have trouble finding work. They are not given an opportunity to prove themselves, so they work in other fields,” he stated.
Yael Mazuz, head of the High Skilled Employment project at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, said importing top foreign engineers is meant to strengthen the high-tech industry and also increase the number of jobs available to Israeli workers.
In response, MK Odeh said high-tech companies must make an effort to employ Arabs, haredim, women and people over 40. MK Maklev said the report on the government`s plan to import engineers was ”irresponsible and hasty,” adding that ”its purpose may have been to reduce employers` costs.” However, he added, ”I hope some good will come of it, because the problem has been brought to our attention, and we will be able to resolve it without bringing in engineers from abroad.”
MK Nahmias-Verbin concluded the meeting by saying that the plan was a ”slippery and dangerous slope” and illustrates that the government ”severely lacks long-term planning.” She called on the interministerial committee dealing with the shortage of engineers to present to the committee, within four months, immediate solutions to the problem.