Meet MJB Researcher Tirza Willner

“As a young adult myself, and in my first job outside academia, I take great satisfaction in working to help integrate other young adults in the workforce. My studies in organizational and vocational psychology and resulting business-consulting internship gave me the tools to research ways to fulfill their employment potential and wellbeing.”

So explains Tirza Willner, a researcher at MJB’s Division for Research on Employment, whose research focuses on vocational education and training.

According to Tirza, one spotlight of Israel’s employment policy has been vocational education and training (VET) in recent years, since success here is seen as directly linked to a thriving labor market.

Her research has shone a light on Israel’s VET system from several angles. In 2016, she contributed to a review of Israel’s VET system for the OECD. “It was fascinating to analyze the work-based learning and apprenticeship models in place here. Our recommendations focused on the need for more work-based learning in VET programs, promoting the recruitment of apprentices and preventing dropout of students and employers from these programs. In fact, the JDC-TEVET Starter program, which we are reviewing, is taking this approach.”

Additionally, Tirza played an active role in an Israeli collaboration with the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training. As Germany has an internationally recognized VET system, learning from their experiences has provided many insights in improving the Israeli system. “Our recommendations to the Ministry for Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services outlined practical steps for implementing the recommendations raised in previous reports and also relied on input from service-providers.”

Part of the challenge facing Israel’s labor market, Tirza explains, is that following army service, many Israelis lack a clear direction for what kind of employment they want to pursue.

As a graduate student, Tirza helped develop tools to analyze the match between young people’s preferences and the employment and training options suitable both for them and for the labor market.  The article she is currently writing for the Journal of Vocational Behavior, together with Prof. Itamar Gati  and Dr. Yuliya Lipshits-Braziler of the Hebrew University’s Psychology and Education Departments, describes another tool they developed that assesses the meaning people derive from their jobs and the reasons they choose to go to work.

Tirza is excited about expanding her research areas into some of the emerging fields, such as the inclusion of women in high-tech and the training of practical engineers and technicians. “MJB is a place where I can be on the cutting edge of the field.  I definitely feel I can contribute in this area.”