20 June 2008 World ORT career centre opens in St Petersburg’s YESOD building World ORT has extended its services to St Petersburg’s Jewish community beyond the education of its children to giving adults marketable skills that will enable them to take advantage of opportunities in the city’s growing economy. The opening of the Lawson ORT-Career Programme in the sparkling new YESOD building is the latest in a series of facilities springing from the experience of the Jack Lawson Vocational Training Centre (VTC) in Moscow, which was founded in 2001 thanks to the support of the Carole and Geoffrey Lawson Foundation. Leaders of St Petersburg’s Jewish organisations were among the dozens of guests who attended the opening of the centre this week. They attended demonstration classes showing the use of new technology, such as an interactive whiteboard like those installed in Israeli schools as part of World ORT’s Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme. ‘We are very happy to now have an operational centre,’ said Marina Sorokina, Director of ORT St Petersburg. ‘We plan to have 1,000 students each year.’ At the opening day, guests were presented with a CD-ROM, The Aleph-Bet of Israel, produced by ORT St Petersburg for the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence. The CD-ROM takes people through different aspects of the Jewish State, each one under the heading of a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Guests were also introduced to some design techniques resulting in the creation of a calendar, copies of which were also presented to those attending. Adults will have the opportunity to learn ICT, accounting, computer aided design and multi-media skills that are increasingly demanded by local employers. ‘Unemployment is not a problem in St Petersburg,’ said World ORT Representative in Russia, Belarus and Central Asia Avi Ganon. ‘The challenge is under-employment, being trapped in low-paying jobs. This programme, in partnership with the JDC, will help members of the Jewish community improve their skill set which will open up new, better career paths for them.’ In addition to providing training for working people, the St Petersburg programme also plans to provide special courses for children and the elderly in conjunction with partner Jewish organisations. There are already Lawson ORT-Career centres up and running in Yekaterinburg Kharkov, Kishinev, and, on a smaller scale, in Rybnitsa and Beltsy; another one is planned for Odessa. Like St Petersburg, the centres are linked by cutting-edge distance learning technology to World ORT’s Jack Lawson VTC in Moscow. Each centre employs a careers advisor to help trainees find better jobs locally or in Israel, if they plan to make aliyah. Interviews conducted by World ORT indicate that more than eight of every 10 trainees have improved their financial circumstances after completing World ORT courses.