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Career continuity among immigrant professionals: Russian engineers in Israel

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About 82,000 Soviet-trained engineers and technologists arrived in Israel during the 1990s, joining some 30,000 of their local colleagues and creating dramatic over-supply of engineering cadres on the small Israeli market. This follow-up study explores costs and benefits of different personal strategies of occupational adjustment among this group of professionals, underscoring the roles of age, gender and specialis ation. The study included a three-wave survey and three focus groups with immigrant engineers. Five hundred students of the special Hebrew courses for engineers were recruited in 1992-93 (soon after their arrival in Israel) and then contacted again in 1997 and 2001. With a final attrition level of 26 per cent due to address change, non-response and other reasons, the final wave of research included 372 participants. The results show that, in all age and speciality groups, male engineers were much more likely to find engineering posts than female ones; younger engineers (below age 45) were more successful than older ones; specialists in electronics, computing and high technologies reported better adjustment than engineers trained in more traditional fields (metallurgy, mechanics, etc.). By 1997, around 20 per cent found work in their old specialisation, 17 per cent retrained into other engineering branches (most often computing), about 25 per cent worked as qualified workers, 28 per cent had various unskilled jobs, and some 9 per cent were unemployed. For respondents who succeeded on the professional track, the mean time for finding their first relevant job was 2.5 years. By 2001 the employment pattern remained largely the same, meaning that the initial years in the host country are crucial for professional adjustment.
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Keywords: Career continuity; Engineers; Israel; Russian migration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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