Photo Credit: Miriam Alster / Flash 90
Haredi man enters the Intel hi-tech compound in Jerusalem.

Israel’s high-tech employers prioritize in their search for talent “soft skills” such as independent learning and problem-solving, over previous experience and a relevant academic degree, according to a new study commissioned by Tel Aviv-based Afeka Academic College of Engineering and TheMarker.

Afeka College believes that these findings present an actionable roadmap for academic institutions — particularly those focused on engineering and the other STEM disciplines — as they seek to address employment challenges in the Israeli high-tech sector, which has long grappled with tech-talent shortages.


Afeka College, alongside the Lev Academic Center, Rupin Center, Ariel University, Open University, SCE, Kineret College, Azrieli College, and Sapir College all offer university-level courses that accommodate Haredi students’ needs.

Among other things, the survey’s findings support the claim that has been made repeatedly by Haredi educators and politicians that the intellectual training yeshiva students undergo starting at a very early age prepares them more effectively for jobs that require strong analytic skills, while the “core curriculum” subjects, including math and English, which many Haredi yeshivas do not provide, can be attained in a relatively short time after graduation.

Haredi women work at the Malam Group IT company in Beitar Illit. / Nati Shohat/Flash90

The survey, conducted in May by the Rushinek Market Research Agency, included 150 managers in Israel’s high-tech industry and 155 managers in other sectors, who were asked to reveal what they deemed most important to determine recruitment, addressing challenges in the workplace, and opportunities for advancement. Was it a relevant academic degree, previous work experience, or soft skills?

The survey utilized a “skills index” to pinpoint the most essential criteria for obtaining employment and succeeding in today’s workforce, which is constantly evolving due to the rise of artificial intelligence and other modern technologies. In all three categories––hiring, working, and advancement––soft skills received the highest index score, with the high-tech managers placing an even greater emphasis on the need for skills.

On a relevancy scale of 1-10, high-tech managers gave soft skills an average of 7.5 for recruitment, 8.0 for advancement, and 8.1 for addressing challenges – with 7.8, 6.8, and 7.9 respective ratings for previous experience, and 6.8, 5.5 and 6.4 respective ratings for a relevant academic degree.

For managers from non-high-tech sectors, soft skills were rated a bit lower in importance across all three categories, but still high in comparison to previous experience and much higher in comparison to relevant academic degrees.

The survey also delved into the specific skills managers are looking for, evaluating 13 different soft skills. 62% of high-tech managers valued being able to teach oneself new skills, compared with 50% of managers from other sectors. Additionally, 61% of high-tech managers agreed that being able to solve complex problems is crucial, with only 33% of managers from other sectors prioritizing this skill.

“The importance of soft skills, even for engineers, is increasing each year,” says Prof. Ami Moyal, President of Afeka College. “The exponential rate at which technology is advancing and the explosion of Artificial Intelligence solutions makes them a forerunner to the constantly changing knowledge base that is now readily available anywhere at any time. That is why academic studies should incorporate developing these skills in students as part of the educational process, in addition to the concrete knowledge that today’s professionals need to succeed in the workforce.”

When asked about what skills employers are looking for overall, high-tech managers revealed that the ten most highly prized core skills, in order of importance, were self-learning, complex problem-solving, proactivity, the ability to work independently, motivation, creative thinking, multidisciplinary teamwork, effective communication, emotional intelligence, and leadership. Comparatively, managers from other sectors placed motivation as the highest priority, whereas complex problem-solving was much lower in priority.

“It is clear that the high-tech industry attaches great importance to the ability to work independently, self-learning, and dealing with problem-solving — issues that have always been crucial – particularly for engineers,” says Moyal, “but their assessment is affected by the changes that are constantly taking place in the employment market, and more specifically remote work, which requires more emphasis on independent work. The growing importance of effective communication and multidisciplinary teamwork in the modern high-tech workforce should also be noted, as these skills were not as emphasized in the past.”

These findings are in line with Afeka’s broader institutional goal to transform engineering education. Since 2016, the college has embarked on a long-term journey of profound institutional change for better preparing students for success in the modern workforce.

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