Human Resources for Innovation (Observations from Circles One and Two)

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The technology sector in Israel is currently in hyper growth mode. With more than 5,000 start-ups and over 250 global R&D centers, Israeli high-tech continues to create more and more jobs. Israeli technology not only creates more positions to be filled by engineers, developers, and designers, but also creates demand for technicians and professional service providers. At the same time, our population totals 7.8 million people, all told. We create jobs for growth, but lack the human capital resources to fill them in.

In the 1990’s, we experienced technology growth similar to today, but we had the human resources to fill the jobs that were created, thanks to the blessed wave of immigration we experienced during that time. Israel absorbed 1 million newcomers – mainly from Russia – and many of them were highly skilled engineers and scientists who had to adapt to their new lives as Israelis. Thanks to them, we were able to sustain growth for a couple of decades afterwards. To date, our GDP on a per-capita has already reached a level of $31,500. We need, and we can, grow beyond $40,000.

As we continue to move forward in time, the challenge is reemerging, which begs the question, “Where can we find the talent required to fuel the growth of the “Empire of the Mind”? There is a limit to the number of newcomers we can bring on an annual basis, let alone our ability to deal with the “brain circulation” phenomenon, which is sometimes defined as “brain drainage”. Israeli universities are investing significant efforts in maintaining relationships with Israeli scientists and academicians living and working outside of Israel in the hopes of one day bringing them back home. And in being creative, we believe there will also be non-Israeli entrepreneurs who will start their companies in Israel, learning and experiencing the Israeli startup nation spirit and phenomenon firsthand.

As Israel’s external human capital resources are finite, at the end of the day, we need to look inside our society and ask ourselves, “Does everyone have the opportunity to participate in the technology and innovation economy?” While in reality the answer is no, the potential is certainly there. We know that the 1.6 million people who are part of the minority sectors (about 20% of the population in Israel) are not fully entrenched. And such is the case with the Ultra-Orthodox community (about 900,000 people), as well as with women, both of whom are not represented in this industry to the full extent of their potential. These sectors in our society consist of a great number of potential software developers and code-writers, and undoubtedly, if we invest in all of them, we will be able to extract great human talent to fuel our economic growth.

A great way to pursue this internal quest for human talent in addition to all of the above, is to simply focus on high schools and bring the young generation to work in high tech companies. Or, an even better way – to bring high tech companies into our school yards.

We can start with the integration or inclusive of high schools with colleges and universities. While the younger generation is busy conducting their studies, they can become participants and contributors to the innovation industry. Today, young start-ups are already being incubated in university campuses, and lately, an even newer concept is emerging in Israel – incubating companies in school yards. High-tech-high-schools can be a great combination of education that goes hand-in-hand with applied research and development.

Last year I met Michael, a bright young Israeli serial entrepreneur who at the age of 15 joined his father during his summer school vacation. While with his father, working side by side, he helped develop a complete software program for an advanced system, overcoming major obstacles the team did not manage to overcome. At the age of 16, he already started his first company which was later acquired by one of the largest global companies (deal size was not disclosed, but estimated at $200M) . Young Michael started his second start-up company after completing a successful and meaningful military service.

Most of today’s young men and women start working at the age of 25. They graduate high school at 18, then spend 3 years in military service, and complete first academic degree at 25. Michael started 10 years earlier…

While this seems rather new and bold, it makes a lot of sense to have the young generation getting involved earlier than before. Some of the greatest companies in the world were started by young entrepreneurs, and even teenagers. Think of the young founders of Microsoft and Apple, and the young entrepreneurs who started companies like Facebook, or Checkpoint in Israel. The high-tech industry will continue to include younger and younger talented students, and thus bring additional new human resources to the industry, which it so greatly needs.

Global companies, such as Google, create today working environment that any school student would enjoy working at, while school classroom seems to be less inspiring. Maybe it is time to bring the two together…

Today in Israel we see more teenage entrepreneurs starting companies. When it comes to finding human talent in the modern age, it’s time to think in a new way.

If you look at the pictures attached you will see the Google Office in Israel, which looks like a great working environment for kids, and in the 2nd picture you will notice (in Hebrew) that kids are already offered to take “high tech courses”. Perhaps we are no so far from this new age…

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