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  • Text: Marga van Zundert
  • Picture: Gerdien Wolthaus Paauw

First line assistance for refugee integration

Khlood Alsawaf (photo, left) and her son have good memories of the training day organized by Tilburg University and TIAS on 10 November 2016. Alsawaf, who used to be an Arabic teacher in Syria, heard that there is a significant demand for Dutch-Arabic interpreters. “I wanted to start learning Dutch as soon as possible. I am now attending three lessons a week.”

Competence card

During the training day, refugees with professional qualifications were invited to complete a ‘competence card’. This will help them when exploring the Dutch employment market. “The competence card shows the Dutch equivalent of qualifications gained elsewhere,” explains Ronald Lievens, who developed the idea. His PhD thesis for Tilburg University examined the topic of refugees and employment. “But the card also allows people to describe their talents and ambitions. A Syrian CV is usually just a basic summary of courses taken and work experience. Dutch employers like to know more about who you are and what you want to achieve.”

“We can help, I thought”

Geert-Jan Peters, driving force behind the training day

“These people are very keen to find a job or internship, whether paid or in the voluntary sector,” says Geert-Jan Peters, business manager at Tilburg University and the driving force behind the training day. “Work can be very hard to find at the best of times. It is even more difficult when your qualifications are not recognized, you don’t yet speak Dutch particularly well, you’re not familiar with local customs and you don’t have much of a network. We can help, I thought.” The Dutch Refugee Council (SNV) and Tilburg University immediately embraced the idea. “Almost half of the people who attended the first event now have a job or a training place.”

My goal: to study

Negah Ismail had an interesting ‘speed date’ with one of the thirteen employer organizations which were represented at the November 10 meeting. The entire day was both useful and very interesting, she confirms. “I fled my homeland alone and now I must arrange everything myself. For an Afghan girl, that is very strange. But I have now made a big step towards my next goal, which is to study at university.”

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