'My dream is that we help as many people as possible into a job.'
People who have fled their country and now have a Dutch residence permit still often live in an asylum seekers' centre and have a hard time finding a job on their own. But permit holders are allowed to work, and so Daan and Ilias came up with the idea to set up their own temporary employment agency, ‘Uitzendbureau IDEA’ (IDEA). Through this agency, the Saxion students mediate between refugees and companies.
Ilias Hassan (22), a third-year student in Business and Management Studies (MER) and Daan van der Vliet (22), a student in Real Estate Management, came up with the idea together to start a temporary employment agency. For Ilias, it all came naturally. Looking back at his own family history, he recounts: 'My father came to the Netherlands in 1991 as a Somali refugee. He was highly educated, but had to go through so much to eventually find a job as a factory worker. He had to figure out a lot by himself."
'People holding a residence permit find it difficult to get in touch with companies,' adds Daan. 'And at the same time, it is also difficult for companies to reach this target group. We want to use our employment agency to forge connections between the two parties. Refugees who are allowed to stay in the Netherlands, but are still working on their civic integration, often find it difficult to apply for a job. On top of that, there is a language barrier. The websites of companies and the application procedures are not easy to understand for those who are still insufficiently familiar with Dutch society.
Application procedures are not easy to understand for those who don’t yet know our country well enough. We want to remove those barriers through personal guidance and mediation.
We want to remove those barriers through personal guidance and mediation. We offer a standard counselling programme once someone has started working for a company. We focus on how the new (refugee) employees are settling in and what should be done if there are cultural differences that need to be bridged. It is not just about mediation, but also concerns counselling and guidance.'
The students got their idea when they had to write a business plan for the Minor StartUp Entrepreneurship. Ilias and Daan both wanted to develop an idea with a social dimension. Daan: "I was brought up that way, discussing social issues. My mother and my stepfather both work for organisations that support vulnerable groups.'
There are two similar agencies in the west of the country. So we thought: We'll focus on the entire eastern part of the Netherlands.
Is IDEA Employment Agency a unique concept for the Netherlands? Ilias: "No, but as far as we know, there are only two similar agencies in the west of the country. So we thought: We'll focus on the entire eastern part of the Netherlands.’ I also want to plan ahead. Perhaps in the long(er) term we might even service part of the German market. In Germany, these type of issues are much more prominent.'
Daan and Ilias are currently running a pilot with a technical company from Holten, which has indicated that it is willing to fill up its vacancies by hiring residence permit holders. Ilias:
'This pilot teaches us what we will need in future to be able to offer optimal mediation services. After that, we are going on an acquisition tour to other companies. We have also made valuable contacts with residents of the asylum seekers' centre (AZC) in Winterswijk. An example of a service we offer is learning AZC residents to write a good CV. We are currently holding the first intake interviews. These are often held in English, but we also have an Arabic interpreter. The AZC residents are working hard to learn Dutch. They will learn Dutch faster if they find employment at a Dutch company. My dream is that we put as many people as possible on the right track and that our temporary employment agency will eventually become market leader in the Netherlands.'