18 February 2009 New training programme empowers women in Israel World ORT has joined with one of the world’s biggest high tech companies, Cisco, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to set up a groundbreaking training programme for women in Tirat HaCarmel, near Haifa. The 15 students selected for the internationally recognised CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) course represent a fraction of those who applied after news spread around Tirat HaCarmel’s 17,000 residents that candidates were being sought. It is the first such course to be offered in the city and the demand has been such that a similar one, for men, is due to be established this year. Thanks to World ORT, students on this one-year pilot programme pay only a nominal participation fee meaning that candidates were selected purely on their suitability for the course and potential to assimilate and exploit the skills being taught. The marketing and selection process was conducted by an official at the local job centre who is paid by the Joint. ‘We have a broad cross-range of people participating,’ said World ORT’s manager of the project, Sherrie Gazit. ‘They are religious and secular, from Ethiopia, women who are just out of the army, older women, married with children and single women; all of them, however, were either unemployed or in low-paying jobs and all of them were assessed as having the potential to achieve more, given the right opportunity. This is that opportunity.’ The CCNA qualifies holders to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot medium-size route and switched networks, including implementation and verification of connections to remote sites in Wide Area Networks (WANs), computer networks whose communications links cross metropolitan, regional or national boundaries. Developed and approved by the $39 billion-a-year, California-based company Cisco Systems Inc – the world’s leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet – the CCNA is highly regarded in the networking industry. In the United Kingdom, for example, demand for holders of the certificate remains constant – despite the recession – and CCNA-qualified staffers can expect to earn about 35,000 ($50,000) a year. Such training would be a great asset, then, in Israel, which has a high tech industry second only to the USA, has not been affected as badly by the economic downturn, and where, according to a 2001 Knesset report, women in general work mostly in lower-paying jobs and are under-represented in prestigious and lucrative occupations such as high tech. ‘Science and technology education gives skills which have far reaching benefits by closing gaps in society,’ the Head of the World ORT Representative Office in Israel, Rony Kalinsky (pictured, left), told the official launch of the programme this week. ‘It allows weaker populations the chance to gain access to focal points of economic strength and it encourages excellence. For these reasons World ORT is happy to be a partner in the establishment of this course.’ The launch took place in the classroom where the 15 students will gather for two three-hour classes each week over the next 10 months. The room, in the Eshkol Payis Centre for Arts and Science, has been kitted out with an interactive white board and computer terminals by World ORT for use by students at Tirat HaCarmel High School, which participates in the Kadima Mada programme. The school’s principal gave permission for the equipment to be used for the CCNA course and the municipality is covering the costs of providing the venue. World ORTs decision to help set up the CCNA course in Tirat HaCarmel follows the organisations two-year involvement in the citys education system through Kadima Mada and the visit there in June last year by members of the World ORT General Assembly. The municipality’s support is an honouring of the commitment shown by the ousted mayor, Arieh Farjoun, by his newly-elected successor, Arieh Tal (pictured, right). ‘I am eager to do all I can to ensure that this very worthy programme is successful,’ Mayor Tal told the launch. Also at the ceremony was Ifat Baron, Cisco Networking Academy Manager in Israel, who said: ‘I am very proud of the women who do this course; it’s not easy to be accepted on the course and it’s hard to study twice a week in addition to home commitments. We have made available one of our best instructors so I’m certain that all the women will graduate successfully and I look forward to handing them their certificates.’ Ms Baron also hopes to be able to hand graduates their first job placement. Tirat HaCarmel has a major high tech industrial zone on its outskirts and Cisco has obtained commitments from companies there that they will seriously consider employing the new CCNA certificate holders.