The Ofakim program has gotten underway at the Technion in the science-technology track and is scheduled to spread to other Israeli universities in the future. The new program will enable residents of the periphery, demobilized soldiers, those lacking acceptance criteria for universities – to acquire an academic education in science and technology.
The Ministry of Defence, through the fund and unit for directing demobilized soldiers, locates suitable demobilized IDF soldiers from communities in the periphery and directs them to the preparatory program, which will prepare them to be accepted into every faculty in the Technion, even if they do not have a matriculation certificate.
Program participants will receive full financial support, including tuition and living stipends. The program is being organized, in its initial stages, by the Technion and financed through the Ministry of Defence’s fund and unit for directing demobilized soldiers, the Association for the Advancement of Education, the Rashi Foundation, the Gruss Foundation and the Israel Association of Electronics and Software.
The program’s initiator is Yehuda Zisapel, president of the RAD-BYNET Group and chairman of the Israel Association of Electronics and Software Industries. “Ofakim’s vision is to add professional and quality manpower from the periphery to hi-tech industries and thus to contribute to closing the social and economic gap between the periphery and the center of the country,” he says. “Leading talented young men and women to academic studies in engineering and the sciences, through economic, academic and social support – will enable them to build better futures for themselves and, at the same time, will strengthen the Israeli economy, the periphery and assist in closing the Israeli social gap. We believe, that upon completion of their studies, there will once again be tremendous demand for engineers and scientists and that advanced industries will continue to be the engine pulling the Israeli economy.”
It is the intention of the program’s heads to turn to state authorities for assistance in financing expansion of the program to the national level with 1,500 graduates a year.
The opening ceremony of Ofakim took place on Thursday, November 27, 2008 at the Technion’s Center for Pre-University Studies. Technion President, Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig; the director general of the Ministry of Defence, Pinchas Buchris and the heads of all the foundations and organizations participating in the project all took part in the ceremony.