The human capital crisis in the high-tech industry is growing year by year. With the additional impact of COVID-19, this crisis has even exacerbated for many entrepreneurs, startups, and large companies. International internships can address this challenge. Despite the pandemic, the placement of international internships in Israeli companies has not stopped; their contribution has pivoted to remote internships and their value and contribution to the companies remains significant.

43% on furloughs

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our lives and has influenced companies as well; existing organizational perceptions have cracked and entrepreneurs and business leaders have developed new ways of thinking, new perceptions, and a new sense of understanding the role of physical space. Zoom calls have replaced physical meetings.

Due to the severe damage to the economy, it is incumbent upon us to see things in a different light. This is an opportunity to open our minds, recalculate our trajectory, and think of new possibilities, precisely when uncertainty continues to resonate in our heads.

The Israel Innovation Authority presents alarming data: 43% of high-tech companies have put employees on furlough and about 45% have cut salaries. The report also shows that half of these companies reported a freeze on staff recruitment. Many companies had begun to seek innovative ways of addressing personnel needs even before the pandemic, but now the model of hosting international interns remotely is even more relevant. The diverse linguistic and cultural background that these interns bring provide a unique toolbox to aid companies looking for specific solutions to clearly defined tasks.

From a survey conducted among companies in the various sectors that took part in the recent projects of Onward Israel and Tamid Group, it was concluded that 96% of the Israeli employers who absorbed interns said that they would like to do so again in the future and 89% indicated that the internship provided great value for them.

The effectiveness of these internships has proven itself in the past. A student from abroad who interned at Infinity Equity initiated a significant connection with another company in China; A student in New York who worked at RightHear, a company that develops technology that helps people with visual impairments orient themselves in public spaces, established new connections for the company with the McDonald’s chain in her city.

When a 21 year old from Jacksonville Florida was out of school, she looked towards the international internship program as not only just a personal experience, but one that gave her an in-depth jump into the professional landscape. As an intern for Zelicovic Investments, she recalls: "Working with an Israeli company was a great opportunity to expand my horizons and learn more about the Israeli economy and culture. Me and the other intern analyzed lists of companies to find ones that met certain financial criteria... When we found companies that met the requirements, our supervisor would do additional research and buy some of them for his portfolio. This made me feel that I had influence over his investment decisions and that the work I was doing mattered a lot for the company's success."

The pandemic has posed new challenges but has offered new possibilities too. The connection between the future generation of leaders, opinion makers, entrepreneurs and businessmen in the world and the Israeli labor market is a key factor in the success of Israeli companies--whether small or large. Especially in times of crisis, international interns succeed in bridging cultural and technological obstacles and successfully integrate into their host companies. The interns hold conversations with executives and decision-makers  in companies and organizations, promote projects that have been somewhat forgotten, and assist companies, but they do not seek to replace or compete with the personnel employed by these companies in Israel.

International interns gain significantly from their exposure to Israeli society and culture and from their interaction with Israeli professional colleagues. The supply of and demand for international interns continues to grow. For Israeli companies, this is an invaluable contribution. Outstanding interns work and contribute their knowledge and time. Companies report that a deep connection has been established with the students. Some of them will return to Israel in the future to work full-time at the company where they interned, and, in effect, extend their contribution to the Israeli economy more. This is a win-win situation with great business potential; the pandemic creates a new opportunity to adopt this innovative model and expand it even further.

Written by Ilan Wagner, CEO of Onward Israel