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Mati Expands Its Turning Point Program: It Started Out Teaching Digital Skills to Ultra-Orthodox Women and Now Includes Young Palestinians in East Jerusalem

MATI is a business development center headquartered in Jerusalem that, rather than put its energy into training individuals for new jobs, focuses on the bigger picture of the creation of new businesses. MATI’s new Turning Point program, which Targum Shlishi has been instrumental in encouraging and supporting, is in its pilot stage, with a successful beginning last year.

The program initially focused on training ultra-Orthodox women in digital technology and social media for business purposes, which included not simply educating women in these skills, but doing so with the expectation that many of these women will go on to establish small businesses focused on supporting online marketing for other businesses in their communities. That initial success has led MATI not only to continue with the pilot program for ultra-Orthodox women, but to expand to offer it to young Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

Success with Ultra-Orthodox Women

MATI developed its Turning Point program to help enhance employment opportunities and earning potential for ultra-Orthodox women. There have been few opportunities for ultra-Orthodox women to learn or apply skills in digital technology, yet these are skills that are not only valued in today’s economy, but they are versatile in terms of career options, and they can be adapted to the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle. The feedback has been extremely encouraging. MATI estimates that training twenty women will result in the establishment of more than twenty new businesses, the upgrading of dozens of established businesses, and the creation of new jobs. Go here to read Targum Shlishi’s initial press release about Turning Point.

Encouraged by the results to date, MATI decided to apply these same principles to supporting young Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Encouraging Economic Opportunities

“We have been very impressed with MATI’s track record and with the positive outcomes of working with ultra-Orthodox women. As is the case for these women, the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are also a population experiencing a clear and urgent need for more economic opportunities,” says Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director. “The high unemployment rates and dim career prospects for young Palestinians there is not good for the youth, their families, or for Israel. It’s long past time to be proactive. These young Palestinians can be agents of change in their communities, and helping them to develop the skills for sustainable employment is critically important.”

Program Overview

MATI’s Turning Point program for young Palestinians is a technological and economic empowerment program that aims to increase the number of young marginalized Palestinians from East Jerusalem who participate in the digital work market. The program helps participants become self-sufficient through providing knowledge and tools in digital and social media marketing and entrepreneurship, with the aim of training program participants to become entrepreneurs and/or to help existing business owners to develop, update, and modernize their online marketing activity.

The program includes a digital and social media marketing course, a business entrepreneurship course, and a mentored internship that lasts from three to five months.

About the Population

The Palestinian population in East Jerusalem is one with very high rates of poverty and unemployment. The Palestinian population is forty-three percent of Jerusalem’s population; eighty-two percent of these Palestinian families live below the poverty line. The economic pressure has resulted in more young people from this population seeking work.

“While there are many differences between the two populations in our pilot program, from a business standpoint there are important commonalities between ultra-Orthodox women and young Palestinians,” says Michal Shaul Vulej, deputy CEO and business development director of MATI. “Both groups face unemployment or low earning jobs and poverty deriving from social, cultural, and educational barriers. And in both cases, bettering their lives through job training and providing accessibility to profitable jobs will create a great impact on the entire community.”

The Model

MATI’s model of overcoming these barriers to profitable jobs is to stimulate economic growth through entrepreneurship. Small businesses can play a key role in local economic development, and this is especially true for Jerusalem’s diverse communities, where entrepreneurial activity and managing an independent business can be adapted to the community’s unique way of life, allowing for flexible work hours and even location. Additionally, businesses are job multipliers.

About Digital and Social Media Marketing

MATI chose to focus on training in digital and social marketing for this pilot program because these skills are necessary in nearly every business today. There has been a transition from print advertising to using digital media; business owners must respond to this shift. As a result, people who are skilled in digital media are increasingly in demand.

“These tools and skills, essential as they are, remain for the most part inaccessible to ultra-Orthodox entrepreneurs and Palestinians,” notes Vulej. “This pilot program helps address the digital gap that isolates ultra-Orthodox businesses from the tools and skills essential in today’s economy. In East Jerusalem, the Internet and social network marketing are not commonly used and there are no available local training programs.”

Anticipated Results

MATI estimates that fifty percent of participants in the pilot program will work independently in social media for business, and that of those who don’t, at least eighty percent will integrate as employees in the field. Overall, MATI anticipates that at least seventy percent of participants will experience improved financial circumstances as a direct result of the pilot program.

About MATI Jerusalem Business Development Center

MATI Jerusalem Business Development Center was established in 1991 to help entrepreneurs and business owners set up or expand enterprises in Jerusalem. Launched at the initiative of Teddy Kollek, who was then mayor of Jerusalem, MATI Jerusalem is Israel’s largest and most prominent business center, and has served as a model emulated by twenty-five additional small business support centers throughout Israel. For more information, visit its website..

About Targum Shlishi

Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter.

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