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29 Nov 2013 15:48 Age: 5 yrs
Category: News Update, Kadima Mada

World ORT and IDF launch first partnership

World ORT and the Israeli army have embarked on their first programme together to encourage high school students to pursue technological careers in the defence forces.


Soldiers accompanied the students on their visit to Teva where they learned about creating pharmaceuticals and the hi-tech industry in Israel.

The Excellence in Technology Workshop has kicked off with a pilot programme involving 41 students from 20 schools affiliated with World ORT’s programmatic arm in Israel, Kadima Mada. Selection was limited to the top performing students in the schools’ vocational study tracks of mechanics, electronics and mechatronics with an emphasis on recruiting girls.

Modelled on the GADNA programme, through which high schoolers spend a week with the military wearing uniform, sleeping in tents and learning to shoot among other things, the World ORT workshop is designed to counter the recruitment problem faced by the IDF’s increasingly important technical corps.

“Recruits with technical skills are in great demand but it’s difficult to find boys – and especially girls – to fill these positions which can involve hands-on, dirty work without the prestigious image offered by combat units,” said Kadima Mada CEO Avi Ganon. “We’re very proud to have instituted something which will help to narrow the technical corps’ manpower gap and increase the number of female recruits.”

Yael Shahar, Co-founder and Associate at the Institute for the Study of Asymmetric Conflict and Associate at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism at the IDC Herzliya, welcomed the World ORT initiative.

“I think it’s a good programme and hope it goes from strength to strength; there’s certainly a need for it,” she said. “The IDF is a particularly technologically savvy army – it needs to be because it’s vastly outnumbered.”

Computer programming, offensive and defensive web and data security, optics and electro-optics, and skills pertaining to stand-off weapons such as missiles were all in great demand, said Ms Shahar, who has a background in physics, database design, and security and installation protection.

“The trouble is that many kids don’t really know what they want to do until after their army service. World ORT’s programme can give them an idea of what’s out there while they’re still young,” she said. “In the short to medium term it can help them choose a valuable path to serve in the IDF; in the long term that can result in adults with skills which are highly applicable to Israel’s hi-tech entrepreneurial sector – leading to lucrative careers for individuals and wealth creation for the country as a whole.”

This month, the first intake took part in an intensive week of activities starting with team building exercises at Shifman School’s Eshkol Payis Community Centre in Tirat HaCarmel and an introductory presentation on the importance of technology in the military and consequent need for technicians by Major Ina Zarztar.

Among the highlights were a lecture on missile system and a visit to Tel HaShomer army base where the students saw and learned about the world-renowned Merkava battle tanks.

“They learned about the welding of the armour, the measurements, quality control and spoke to the technical experts who actually build the tanks,” said Pedagogical Coordinator Shmuel Cohen.

Students also spent time at the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science, toured Rafael Industries where they learned about the Iron Dome anti-missile system, enjoyed wide ranging discussions with serving officers from the Intelligence Corps and the Navy, and took part in a Robotek Technologies workshop and review of military robots.

“This was an informative and educational experience with a strong emphasis on the practical, such as a day spent at an Army training school to see how armoured vehicles operate and are cared for,” said Mr Ganon. “But the wider significance was brought home to them at the graduation ceremony where Brigadier General Tzvika Kraus, the IDF’s Chief of Ordnance, spoke of the importance of the army technical corps on the battle field and for the future of Israel.”