More workplaces for employees with backpacks: ‘They thrive here’

He wanted to do things differently at his new company: less focus on profit and working with people at a distance from the labor market. “This gives so much energy”, says Douwe Jan Boersma, founder of Weer!.

Workers with a backpack

Again! breathes new life into old furniture, for example from trains and offices. But a large part of the employees also get a new chance.

Many of them come from a difficult situation, have a so-called backpack. For example, there are people who have been in a benefit situation for a long time, people with disabilities, refugees and someone who comes from a sheltered workshop.

Here they gain confidence

“Here they gain self-confidence again. Through clarity, good communication, trust and positivity you see people blossoming. They become part of our group of people who like to look forward and not backwards.”

Permanent employees work together with employees who need guidance. They are trained internally. But there is also guidance outside of work.

Also outside of work

“For example, some of them will earn money for the first time in a long time. Then we help them, if necessary, to handle that money in a good way.”

Like Bert: “I sat at home for three years. There was work offered by the municipality, but it was minimalist. That was mainly so that I had something to do. And then I ended up here, at Weer!. That was a very nice outcome, I like to meet people.”

‘Not afraid of challenges’

“Working with people at a distance from the labor market is a challenge, but we are not afraid of challenges,” says Boersma. “Before this, I owned another company, where profit was paramount. I no longer wanted that in my new organization.”

More places for people with a distance to the labor market

There are 1 million people in the Netherlands who want and are able to work more. That is the untapped labor potential. At least 400,000 of these are people who would like to work but are on the sidelines because they need extra guidance. For example, they fall under the Participation Act, receive WIA benefits or are not entitled to benefits because a partner has income. It concerns people who have a physical, mental or psychological disability or who have been outside the labor market for a long time. For example, the vast majority of people in the Participation Act, 70 percent, have been dependent on social assistance benefits for more than two years.

Job appointment

The government and social partners want to create 125,000 workplaces for this group by 2026, via the Jobs Agreement. But more can be done there, according to four industry associations. According to them, there is currently so much work that social development companies can help 10,000 extra people find work every year with a little help.

‘Plans not very concrete’

“There is an urgent need to fill all those vacancies on the labor market. There are still a million people on the line,” says Mohamed el Mokaddem of Cedris, an association for an inclusive labor market. “Entrepreneurs have their hands in their hair because they can’t get staff.”

“The coalition agreement does contain plans, but they are not very concrete. There is no time to lose, we want to quickly meet with the minister to make concrete plans.”

New culture

Boersma also sees this: “I think we need all the people. There are now so many people who have many more options. They can do that with us, but they can also move on to another company.”

“This is certainly not the easiest way, you need extra energy. But that new culture also gives a lot of energy.”

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