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Program Spotlight: JDC STRIVE Employment Program

With employment trends around the world a focus of intense scrutiny as national economies struggle to regain momentum, JDC’s TEVET partnership with the Government of Israel, now in its sixth year, is helping to break through barriers for many of the country’s chronically unemployed populations.

Fighting Poverty through Employment is the partnership’s full name and goal. With support from The Jewish Federations of North America, JDC-TEVET is addressing the needs of some 800,000 long-term jobless Israelis. Through a range of new program initiatives, it is helping them overcome social and cultural barriers that have kept them out of the workforce, and starting them on a path “from dependency to employability.”

TEVET is currently working to increase job opportunities by forging new partnerships with Israel’s business sector and changing stereotypical attitudes about hard-to-employ populations. It is also providing those populations with skills training, ongoing support, and job mobility assistance.

Programs have been tailored to meet the needs of hard-to-absorb immigrants, the ultra-Orthodox, people with disabilities, Israeli Arabs, and young adults aged 22 to 34 who have been living on the periphery of Israeli society.

Tali, a single mother living in the south of Tel Aviv, is one such young adult. Struggling to feed and nurture her three-year-old son, keep up with her debt payments, and meet her rent, health insurance, and utility bills on social assistance payments of $800 a month, her situation seemed hopeless.

Determined to change her life, Tali joined the STRIVE program, which was established by JDC in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Employment and local municipalities to help young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve financial independence.

Modeled on a program developed in New York’s Harlem neighborhood by those who have themselves overcome difficult life situations, STRIVE uses a multifaceted, self-help approach. Workshops and vocational training courses at specially established centers in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem offer young adults the skills they need to break into the workplace, while personal coaches build the motivation and self-discipline that will keep them on the path to success.

As Einat, another young mother living on welfare can attest, STRIVE staff members help make the difference for program participants with their “tough love” approach. Coaches offer reinforcement for positive lifestyle changes and help with day-to-day problems, but insist that participants take responsibility for themselves. “They told me from the start,” said Einat, “that nobody owes me anything, and asked if I was ready to accept that fact.”  

JDC’s STRIVE program served 800 hard to employ young adults over the past year, and the program has achieved a 75 percent placement rate.

Follow-up with participants continues for two years. This encouragement and continued mentoring is helping many STRIVE graduates move beyond mere employment into career track positions that will help them achieve ever more ambitious life goals.