Michal Shalem, Let’s Grow Israel CEO: “Karmiel’s ORT Braude College of Engineering has a vital role to play in developing the local ecosystem”

In January 2020, ORT Braude was honored to host Let’s Grow Israel CEO Michal Shalem when she met with College President Professor Arie Maharshak to discuss a new strategic plan designed to accelerate economic growth and embrace competitiveness in Israel’s peripheral regions. ORT Braude, located in the northern Israeli city of Karmiel, is ideally positioned to support this plan.

Under Ms. Shalem’s leadership, Let’s Grow Israel has teamed with Harvard University’s Professor Michael Porter, former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, and the Kohelet Policy Forum to draft a strategic five-year plan for Israel’s periphery. Central to the plan are several growth engines: increasing tourism in the periphery; boosting regional development through industrial and high-tech growth by focusing on local advantages inherent in the south, the north, and Judea and Samaria; and developing both the agro-tech sector in the north and the desert-tech sector in the south.

The plan advocates investing in three main growth areas in order to realize their economic potential: the Galilee and Golan in the north, the Negev Desert, Arava, and Eilat in the south, and Judea and Samaria (the areas south and north of Jerusalem, respectively). The proposal includes an investment of approximately NIS 5 billion in these areas: NIS 1.5 billion from government funding, NIS 0.5 billion from local governments and philanthropists, and NIS 3 billion from the private sector. It is estimated that this investment will generate 100,000 new jobs within the next five years, with an economic impact totaling approximately NIS 25 billion.

Over the past decade, Barkat and Shalem have pioneered two similar initiatives with Prof. Porter in Jerusalem. “The plan focuses on developing sustainable economic growth engines in the periphery. Our goal is to double the population there and produce growth centers in each specific area. This is the task at hand, and we intend to present decision makers with a clear plan that will lead and enable the State of Israel to take the right steps to ensure the ongoing welfare of all its citizens,” Shalem explained.

Prof. Maharshak (who previously worked with Prof. Porter, and whose doctoral dissertation was based on Porter’s model) spoke with Shalem on various ways the plan could be implemented, and agreed that connecting northern academic colleges to the developing ecosystem and business sectors is a prerequisite for the growth and development of both businesses and the workforce in the Galilee region.         

Shalem heard from Prof. Maharshak about the college’s recent activities, including efforts to increase productivity, as well as the latest developments revolving around the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, which incorporates Industry 4.0 principles. She was especially impressed by the college’s close ties with local industry via our student internship program involving local industrial plants. “As we deepen the connection between academia, hands-on training, and industry needs, we can bridge the gaps between supply and demand and develop an advanced, sustainable industry in the north,” Shalem commented.

Prof. Maharshak applauded the meeting with Shalem and underlined her point: “After graduation, many of our students continue working in the plants and companies where they interned during their studies, thereby contributing significantly to the periphery’s economic advancement and growth.”

“Following our tremendous success in building two thriving business sectors in Jerusalem by using Prof. Porter’s competitive methodology, we invited Prof. Porter to once again join us in building a special task force to prepare a comprehensive five-year plan aimed at transforming the country’s periphery into areas of growth and opportunity,” added Shalem. She continued by saying that the higher education system in general and ORT Braude College in Karmiel in particular have a vital role to play in developing the local ecosystem, training the workforce specifically for business sectors, and in reducing the gap between future demand and supply.

This innovative plan has already been presented to the mayor of Karmiel and his staff to promote collaboration and begin taking steps towards its successful implementation.