More than 2,000 workers studied this year as part of the “Learning and Advancing” program launched by the Histadrut, guaranteeing highly subsidized programs of study to working people. Hundreds of these went on to pursue an academic degree with a significant price subsidy. An additional 15,000 participants took part in the lectures and digital courses that were offered for free as part of the program.

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“The goal [of the program] is to allow any employee who wants to do so to study in academia,” said Miri Shetach, director of Learning and Advancing. The reasoning behind this initiative, she explains, “comes from the belief that a more educated person is also more successful in their workplace, and can advance to higher positions.”

Shetach says that the program is part of the Histadrut’s broader vision to open the “gates of knowledge” for all Histadrut members. And in an age where changes in the labor market are commonplace, those who do not study may find themselves left behind. Also behind the initiative is the Histadrut’s director general, Ofir Alcalay, who “initiated and pushed for the establishment of the program.”

“It’s part of the union’s job to allow the worker to study,” Shetach said.

Under the program, once a year every Histadrut member who has held their position for a year or more is entitled to enroll in the course. The subsidy for academic degrees includes scholarships of 2,000-3,000 shekels ($645-$967) per year. The practical training courses that the program offers cost only 1,000 shekels ($322) per academic year, and the professional training courses in the program are subsidized at a rate of about 60% of the average cost of an average course offered on the market.

“Additionally, people who want a less rigorous course load have the option to take shorter courses and lectures that are free on Zoom,” Shetach said. The program offers a selection of over 80 different courses, among which include bookkeeping and payroll accounting, mediation, computer science, language studies and more.

“The courses are all done by the leading professional colleges in Israel: The Adler Institute, Berlitz, John Bryce Training College, and the College of Management Academic Studies, among others. Each college was selected according to its capabilities to qualify candidates within its field. We also provided a layout that would allow everyone to participate, including online study options,” Shetach explained. Most programs are held in the afternoon to accommodate a working population.

Naor Ozeri (39) from Beit Dagan, director of employee development and managers at Clal Insurance Company, recently completed a certified personal trainer course.

“Most of what I do is build workshops for our managers and representatives in the areas of sales promotion, leadership, motivation, positive psychology, etc.,” he said. “I always wanted to take a personal trainer course, but I did not want to spend the amount required in the market – 13-18 thousand shekels ($4,181-$5,789).”

“When I received the email about Learning and Advancing from the Histadrut, I looked and saw that the cost of the course was 1,700 shekels ($546) and I could not believe it,” he continued.

Ozeri, said he contacted the Alon Gal Communication School where the course is offered to request the syllabus for the ‘regular’ course, and compare it with the course offered in the Histadrut program.

“I was amazed. It was the same course. I signed up right away and told all my friends. After that, three more from my office signed up,” he said.

“Initiator for the establishment of the program.” Ofir Alcalay, General Manager of the Histadrut. (Photo: Histadrut Spokeswoman)

Ozeri, a student within the course says, “It was six months long and was held weekly on Thursdays from afternoon to evening and was at convenient hours for working people, just before the weekend. The group had about 30 members, some of them were just new workers and some were more advanced in their field. People from all walks of life in Israel: a nurse, a bank branch manager, a senior manager in a government office and a simple worker from the electricity company.”

Some of the students, Ozeri explained, came to develop their professional skills in their current career, some to work in the field in parallel with their current career and some with the intention of making a professional transition. “For me it’s a professional upgrade that has given me tools that are very relevant to my role in the company,” Ozeri said.

“Even now after the course, I continue to go to the site and check what courses are offered there, because there are definitely other courses that I am considering doing later. There are excellent courses and it would be such a shame to miss out on them,” Ozeri concludes.

The program also offers a special course specifically for employees who are preparing for retirement. “The course is called ‘Planning for the Future’ and it is a very important course that deals with preparing for retirement – both financially and mentally and building plans for the future. We recognized that for many people the retirement point can be a complex period. In the best possible way – to prepare for the challenges it brings with it, but also to develop new dreams, new initiatives and continue to develop.” The cost of a retirement planning course is 120 shekels ($38).