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Amdocs, Comverse retirees recruited as teachers

January 16, 2011. Globes

Quite a few teachers would not hesitate for a moment to exchange their job conditions for a monthly salary of tens of thousands of shekels, company car, lunch coupons, and other pampering enjoyed by high-tech employees. While it seems unimaginable that anyone would chose to go the other way, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Education believe that such people exist.

The two ministries are working on a special plan to attract veteran high-tech employees who are considering retirement or facing layoffs from companies such as Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX), Comverse Technology Inc. (Pink Sheets: CMVT), and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. to take up teaching as a second career to teach technology subjects related to their previous work.

Ministry of Finance director general Haim Shani and Ministry of Education director general Shimshon Shoshani are overseeing the program, in which candidates will undergo a meticulous selection. Suitable candidates will take an abbreviated six-month teacher training program at a university, which will be chosen by tender.

During the training period, the participants will learn the tools of the trade of a schoolteacher alongside practical experience in the classroom. The two ministries hope that the first high-tech teachers will begin teaching in the upcoming academic year.

Shani said, "Most people working in high tech do not reach retirement age, and retire from the industry early. We found many such people who retired under various circumstances - cutbacks, layoffs, etc. - and who feel the need to contribute, and seek an opportunity in teaching as a second career, even if not in a full-time position.

"I personally know such people, such as a manager of a development team at a large high-tech company who now travels from central Israel to Sderot to teach there, and a project manager who is a math teacher."

Shani said that the advantage of the current program is that high-tech veterans will not have to take a full two-year training course to become teachers, but will undergo an abbreviated intensive six-month course. The program is based on lessons learned from a similar program that has been operating for two years, most importantly a special jobs placement program for graduates.

In the previous program, some graduates could not find a teaching job. The current program will include school principals in the initial sorting committees, who will promise to hire graduates of the training course.

"With this program, we want the teachers of computers, electronics, and other technology professions to be people who were there," said Ministry of Education information and technology administration director Ofer Rimon. "There's a limit to what a teacher who never worked in industry can impart to the pupils. But when you take an engineer who worked at Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) or Intel Israel, the teaching is different."

Rimon added, "We have wonderful teachers in the system, but when you bring to a school a teacher who was an engineer, he can be an anchor linking the school to industry outside. He can also learn from other teachers how to teach and control a class. There's a reciprocal dialogue."

Shani says that the Ministry of Finance will allocate tens of millions of shekels for the project over the next few years. The current stage is a kind of pilot to test the program and response to it. Rimon says that part of the budget will be used to encourage early retirement of science and technology teachers. "It's not smart to just bring in good people; you also have to remove the people who are exhausted," he said.

Shani, himself a veteran of Israel's high-tech industry as CEO of NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE: NICE), is aware of the problems that could arise for people whose monthly salary plummets from tens of thousands of shekels to a few thousand shekels. The program proposes a monthly grant of NIS 3,000 for the first three years of teaching for program graduates. The grant will be partly based on the teacher's seniority at his or her former workplace. "People don’t become teachers for the money. Obviously, no one will work for nothing, but no one expects to earn salaries like in high tech," said Shani.

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