ITWorks: Women's Empowerment Program: Technological Training for Women Living on Israel's Social and Geographic Periphery

ITWorks: Women's Empowerment Program: Technological Training for Women Living on Israel's Social and Geographic Periphery

Israel
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

While developing curricula for Cisco's Networking Academy, I realized that there were significant groups outside the influence of Israel's thriving technological industry. The hi-tech boom was benefiting the core while those without access to skills training or technology based businesses were stuck in the cycle of underemployment and poverty. These were key groups rich in life and capable of employment but without the training and professional guidance needed to find skilled positions with dignified wages and conditions. In consultation with businesses close to the communities looking for skilled employees and local social networks, I expanded the course to populations on the periphery. To be able to replicate this process with impact on regional employment maps would my contribution.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

WEP is implemented in a variety of areas throughout Israel's periphery, therefore our target groups vary in terms of cultural norms, language, values and histories. What all women participants share however is that they live in poorer communities and are either unemployed or working at low-wage unskilled jobs usually as cleaners or nannies. This is due to a variety of factors including lack of encouragement, the inability to afford necessary child care, and most often, a lack of belief in the power to create personal change. For all of the women however, there has been limited or no access to skills-training and professional development programs that provide opportunities for satisfying, skilled employment in businesses that are also local. Depending on the demographic there are also linguistic and cultural barriers. WEP targets Druze, Arab, religious, Ethiopian and new Russian immigrant women. Beginning 2012, it will also target Bedouin women throughout the Negev. From previous experience, the women have had no experience with engagement efforts for professional development and career building support that also considers their needs as primary care takers, or factors in transportation, language or culture. Our understanding of the social, personal, geographic and economic issues involved in recruitment, training, job-networking, placement and assimilation of the experience is what sustains our 70% employment rate. Because staff is available at all stages of the learning and placement process, we are able to help address the technical issues along with the other personal and social challenges posed by the new, exciting and fulfilling realities of personal and economic change.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Since its inception in 2006, over 300 women have successfully completed WEP. Our job placement rate stands at 70%. Our unique approach includes partnership both with local employers and leading hi-tech firms to create specific curricula for the current job market. We also work with state and local welfare and social service organizations in order to insure that our programs will be part of a national program subsequent to our involvement. This allows both for replication and sustainability. We also work with participants beyond training to insure that professional development skills are developed (resume writing, how to search for a job, how to interview, etc). We understand that integration into the work force is a new experience with new personal and social factors. Our team includes professionals with advanced degrees in psychology, social work, sociology and other humanities fields. Whereas other services focus on software development, ITWorks teaches networking-technician skills, tailor-made for each group depending on their local job market needs. Our programs go into the local community and create employment opportunities for residents near their homes. While other organizations working in this field offer technological skills they are without the significant partnerships that insure that recruitment is in the areas most in need and that the program is sustainable. They also do not work in partnership with local businesses to INSURE that training meets the needs of local industries and takes into account transportation, child care, language and culture.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Two months prior to course, staff begins recruitment of unemployed or low- wage earning women with no advanced education and who are living on Israel's periphery. The students that are eligible demonstrate that they are highly motivated with a desire to change their current conditions. The eight month course training includes Microsoft Office and technological English instruction, IT Essentials, and network assembly. The program also integrates soft-skills workshops needed for finding new careers while familiarizing them with what to expect from the technological work force. Within the context of the course (and subsequently), staff maintain daily contact with the women as they engage in a learning environment with new intellectual and personal challenges. At the end of the program, participants earn a Cisco Certified Entry Network Associate (CCENT) AND IT which they receive in an empowering public ceremony celebrating their achievements. They also participate in "Career Day" activities in which large and small technology firms speak to them, simulate interviews and guide them through technical labs to see day-to-day activities. What makes WEP unique is ITWorks' integrated approach to teaching which is based on an understanding that it is not only the technical training that is required for professional development, but an empowerment process that encourages participants to see themselves as purveyors of personal change. Our staff is comprised of people with backgrounds not only in technology; many of the program leaders have advanced degrees in psychology, sociology, and other human relation fields. As part of the above process, program leaders works closely with each individual for a minimum of six months after graduation, assisting in every aspect of the job search including creating a CV (which often involves translations), simulating job interviews and helping to ease the anxieties that often arise before the interview and when faced with new challenges. WEP provides tools for job networking and address (with potential employers as well as participants) anticipated issues involving the balance of family and work, transportation, integration into the work force, managing personal finances, and more. Once the women have found meaningful employment, contact is maintained in order to assure that they are thriving in their new positions, and in order to address new concerns that they may have. These activities lead to permanent changes not only the individual participant's life, but in their communities who witness the possibilities for change on the professional and personal level. Through the empowering process of becoming financially more secure and fulfilled in skilled positions, young men and women alike can begin to see themselves as equal members of society deserving equal opportunities for advancement and fulfillment. Because our curriculum is adaptable to other languages and both able to be scaled and adapted to meet the different technical needs of local businesses, ITWorks can expand its work to other groups in need.
About You
Organization:
ITWorks
About You
First Name

Ifat

Last Name

Baron

Twitter
About Your Organization
Organization Name

ITWorks

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Innovation
What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

ITWorks was established in 2006 by Ifat Baron while working for Cisco's Networking Academy (Corporate Social Responsibility wing of Cisco Systems). In her capacity as Program Manager, Baron noted the significant number of communities which had remained economically underdeveloped and untouched by Israel's high-tech boom. This observation compelled her to create programs based on the Cisco curricula that could serve those capable and willing to work but without access to resources for technical training or tools for obtaining and maintaining skilled positions. Ifat Baron inaugurated the non-profit by implementing and teaching the WEP pilot for Arab-Israelis in the town of Umm al'Fachm. ITWorks has since expanded upon the original technological Cisco curriculum and now includes professional and personal development workshops, as well as new Microsoft and QualiTest content.

By expanding the CNA course to unskilled and unemployed women living in marginalized regions throughout Israel, Baron wanted to address the needs of women and their respective communities, but also of Israel's technological community which would benefit from new skilled labor. She saw an opportunity to change the employment map of Israel by tapping into the rich well of potential skilled labor that remained outside of work force simply because of a lack of access to the vocational, emotional and social support leading to personal, economic and social progress and integration. Thus, she created ITWorks.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

For each WEP implementation (there have been 15 implementations of the program with 300 graduates to date) women acquire qualifications for skilled employment in technology. Success is measured by the employment of our graduates and their increased sense of personal and professional fulfillment. WEP participants experience a tremendous positive shift in their lives. Each course has a minimum of a 70% job placement rate upon completion of the course. Through our database, we keep track of each graduate's details. We know where their place of employment is, and maintain contact with them as needed. In the case where a graduate is having a difficult time finding a position, our employment coordinator will work to find her additional interviews.

There are other determinants of success as well: People who benefit from the program include the respective communities whose members receive higher salaries which will allow them to be less dependent on local authorities, and the high-tech employers, who benefit from a new source of highly trained, qualified employees.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101-1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

1,001-10,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

WEP programs will target new demographics (Bedouin and additional Druze and Arab communities), adopting the QualiTest adaptability model (consultation with local employers designing specific curricula to meet their respective needs and creating a framework for job interviews), based on our successful ExceltHT program (a dual-track program for the Druze minority that trains and prepares for technological careers in partnership with businesses and relevant government offices). WEP will open an "Employment Hotline" for graduates to receive comprehensive assistance with their job search. WEP evolves through a dynamic empowering process that combines technical training with frameworks for professional, social and personal support as women integrate into their new environments.

Sustainability
What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The potential hindrances to the success of WEP involve language skills on the one hand and that women are not necessarily psychologically or situationally prepared for immersion into the course and subsequent job placement. Some of the participants have not had role models, encouragement from family, or resources for balancing needs of home and work. In order to overcome the barrier to technical training in a foreign language, WEP will extend the English preparatory language skills segment of the course and accommodate those for whom language is a real barrier. To meet the new needs of women who are eager - yet for a variety of reasons, reluctant - to thoroughly engage in the program, ITWorks has implemented a "Job Club" in which participants can access any one of our professional staff for support in personal and professional related issues throughout and subsequent to the course.

Tell us about your partnerships

Maximizing information and support provided by all available resources, ITWorks can best locate, access, recruit from and address issues related to the specific demographic composition of each group. ITWorks actively partners with local ministries and community networks for information about local needs. By working with other local NGOs, the Prime Minister's Office, The National Insurance Institute, Social Welfare and alternative education for youth organizations, ITWorks is able to enhance the effectiveness of each program which varies with each group and need.

ITWorks' programs are run with the support and input of governmental organizations in order to insure their adoption by institutional services within a three year period. This assurance not only provides a basis for programmatic sustainability, but frees ITWorks' resources to pursue programs in other locales beyond the scope of Israel's technological center, offering its cutting edge vocational training to new target groups.

Our work with local businesses with whom we consult in designing curricula and interviewing schedule and content, we are able to insure that participants learn technologies that are needed locally, guaranteeing skilled job placement in areas accessible, and with suitable conditions.

Because the programs are linguistically and technically adaptable, ITWorks' programs promise national scalability and international replication.

Explain your selections

The figure listed above is the total operating budgets for ITworks for 2010. Sources of support includes in-kind from technology companies (for Networking Devices and Course Curriculum), from ITWorks itself (Post Course Support and Program Manager), and local municipalities (for computer lab rental). For WEP and non-WEP programs funding is provided by foundations in the United States and Europe. In Israel, support includes funding in-part buy regional and national governmental offices that insure its implementation in places in need and the sustainability of the program regionally beyond ITWorks' participation. Customers include unemployed students that pay small fees for the courses.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

WEP uses its innovative adaptability model to create curricula guaranteeing that the specific needs and capacities of all participants are addressed, responding to the specific technological needs of regional employers. Tailoring each program to local needs guarantees subsequent job placement, maintenance and high-quality job performance of graduates employed in gratifying, quality, positions. Our program is strengthened through on-going engagement with each group, addressing its needs while meeting those of respective local technology companies. This guarantees success and strengthens the program's innovative approach to training, professional development and capacity for post course job placement. Because no two program implementations are the same, "best practice" demands technological accuracy in the development of curricula and its application. To insure that the training material remains relevant, responding to currents in technology, WEP staff leverages all existing partnerships with businesses for short and long term projections. In cooperation with relevant health and welfare organizations, municipalities and governmental offices, ITWorks continues to make inroads into new communities in need. Finally, WEP is strengthened by a consistent internal and external evaluation process that assesses new needs and capacities, progress, and frontiers throughout the course. The above provides the basis of WEP's sustainability as a working model that can be used regionally and globally, and scalability, as a linguistically and technologically adaptable model.

Challenges
Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.

PRIMARY

Underemployment

SECONDARY

Lack of skills/training

TERTIARY

Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

"Other" is lack of opportunity, but might also be a factor of "restrictive cultural norms." The prospective participants are not provided with social support or personal models for acquiring new skills and integrating into the larger social and economic framework, and are not encouraged to be self-supporting. WEP is for unemployed and low-wage earning women which results - in addition to the above - from lack of access to professional training and skill building, which perpetuates the cycle of underemployment pervasive in their respective communities. WEP offers skills, training and on-going support for meaningful employment with salaries and job conditions that are dignified, empowering and life changing.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

TERTIARY

Leveraged technology

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

All of the above growth activities are ongoing for ITWorks. In collaboration with governmental and relevant social services, ITWorks continues to receive key data about underserved, low-income target groups in need of technical training and job placement skills. Our curricula are adaptable linguistically and technically and can be scaled beyond the current region of activity. The WEP model is used for other programs targeting groups such as the disabled and youths at risk. ITWorks leverages all existing technologies to insure that the most current and relevant skills are taught in order to insure employment in skilled positions. Finally, with the programs' absorption into national organizations, ITWorks' resources are available for ongoing programmatic and regional expansion.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

WEP is implemented with the above partners. Governmental offices insure that we target those most in need of technical training, professional development and job placement, and that subsequent to ITWorks' involvement the programs will become part of the State's infrastructure serving communities in need. Technology providers and for profit companies (e.g.Cisco, QualiTest) assist in adapting curricula to meet Israel's specific technological demands, and participate in "career day" activities. With the assistance of local employers, students are assured that they will be find jobs that match their technical training and take into account their particular groups' needs (i.e. child care, transportation). Non-profits have been part of our funding base and efforts to serve our participants.