Olim who come to Israel with experience in the construction or home repair business find that they have to relearn many aspects of the industry in order to re-establish themselves professionally. As local mores and standards are inherent to these businesses, it is important to become familiar with them.
Here are some facets of the industry that are significantly different from what you may be accustomed to in North America:
- The construction system itself is generally very different and is based on a concrete frame rather than a wooden one. Interior walls in Israel are traditionally constructed out of cinder blocks. Today, there has been a slight shift towards building with metal studs and drywall/sheet rock since the materials have become available locally. The construction of large hi-rise buildings, however, is more similar to that in North America and is based on a steel frame.
- Many of the construction materials are different, as well. Even the same types of materials may vary because they are manufactured by European rather than North American companies, and they take getting used to.
- The work force can be significantly dissimilar from what you’re used to in terms of language and culture. It is important to have a good command of Hebrew in order to communicate and negotiate with subcontractors, laborers and suppliers, and you’ll have to become attuned to them culturally, as well. If you were an independent contractor in North America and had built a team of reliable subcontractors and laborers, you’ll have to rebuild that team in Israel, a process that can be challenging at first because of the language and cultural barriers.
- You’ll have to learn the bureaucratic process in Israel, becoming familiar with the procedure for acquiring permits and conforming to local ordinances and regulations.
- Local pricing structures in Israel may also differ from what you’re used to. Learn the “going rate” so that pricing can be competitive with other local contractors.
- Clients’ expectations are also subject to local custom and standards and may be significantly different. A term that is considered standard in a construction contract in Israel may be considered supplemental in North America. Expectations of pace, cleanliness and quality may also vary.
- The construction/home repair business is based largely on referrals and word of mouth. Though you may have built an excellent name in North America, you’ll have to rebuild your reputation after you arrive.
Taking these differences into consideration, it is generally not advisable for Olim to go out on their own immediately after making Aliyah. One may start by working as an apprentice for a local contractor, or try to secure a job with one of the large construction companies in order to “learn the ropes”.
In addition, some Olim who have worked in the general home repair business find it most profitable and easiest to transition into a niche market or an area of specialty.
The Israel Builders Association (Igud HaKablanim) is an important resource. Registration as a general contractor may be done here (Hebrew only).
This resource may be helpful to understand the difference between freelanced and employed contractors. a sample place to find construction jobs is at Glassdoor.
Interview: Construction Management
A special thank you to Josh Adler for participating in this interview.
Please provide us with a brief description of your work.
I work in construction management and supervision. People hire me to oversee their construction projects. I only do residential projects.
How did you find your job?
Many years ago, before and after serving in the army, I worked as a construction worker. Then I worked for a company that imported building materials from the USA. With all of the experience I had gained in the field, I began to work as a general construction site “overseer”. Eventually, I gained enough knowledge and experience to run my own construction management company.
What experience do you need to get into your field?
It’s a must to have hands-on construction experience and knowledge of the business. It’s also very helpful if you have a degree in structural engineering (Handasai Binyan).
Do you need Hebrew to work in your field in Israel?
To work in construction in Israel you need to have basic conversational Hebrew and “trade Hebrew” – vocabulary for materials, tools, methods, etc. The more you know, the better off you’ll be – and the faster you’ll learn the trade.
What training should someone making Aliyah come with, in order to work in your field?
Other than personal, hands-on experience, you could study project management, construction site safety or management, or basic structural engineering.
Does it make any difference whether you trained in Israel or abroad?
Yes, the construction methods that are primarily used in Israel are completely different than those used in most western countries. In order to be absorbed successfully into the industry here, it is best to retrain in Israel. To learn more about courses that are offered here, see Vocational Courses and Retraining Programs for Olim.
It’s also a good idea to seek an apprenticeship for hands-on training.
How can you obtain a license in Israel?
You don’t need a license to work in the general building trade. Specific crafts of the trade may require certification of some sort, such as electricians, gas technicians, etc. For the construction management trade, it’s best to get engineering certification (Handasai).
What are the upcoming areas of specialization that you would recommend?
Construction methods that are more modern than those typically used in Israel, such as steel frame construction, are catching on here — especially for commercial projects. I would recommend gaining knowledge of this field. Also, any knowledge or experience in “green” construction is good to have.
Is there a professional organization in your field?
Yes, there is the Association of Contractors & Builders in Israel.
How do you feel about working and living here in Israel?
I love working in the construction industry here! Being part of the building of Eretz Yisrael gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also try to bring an ethical code to an industry that sometimes does not have a great name.