A stronger society starts with opportunities for young people
From internships to networks and even a 'social impact bond'. Rabobank does its part to strengthen the position of young people in the Dutch labour market in various ways. The initiatives are in line with the Netherlands Employment Accord. 'Seeing the faces of those young people who are given an opportunity makes me happy.'
Tom van Dijk and Miel Spreeuwenberg featured in a Rabobank television commercial that was broadcast nationwide in the Netherlands in early 2015. They are two young men who had completed a secondary vocational course, were able to do an internship at high-tech machinery manufacturer AAE and have now been hired by the company. This opportunity came about thanks to the ‘Helmond Intern City’ initiative. It is a local programme in the Dutch city of Helmond that enables companies, governmental agencies, educational institutions and local Rabobank Helmond to work together in the fields of internships, practical assignments, consultancy work and contract research.
100 companies join forces to fight youth unemployment
The example of Tom and Miel has also inspired Annemarie van den Berg, who is Chair of the Board of Directors of local Rabobank Utrecht. She is also taking action to fight youth unemployment and has, together with the Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, signed the Netherlands Employment Accord on behalf of the Rabobank organisation in the Netherlands. By signing this accord, the employer confirms its intention to help expand employment opportunities for young people. This commitment can be fulfilled in a number of ways ranging from internships and training to company visits and providing access to networks.
‘We are a socially responsible bank and examine social issues closely to determine which ones we can, based on our mission, help address through our network‘, explains Van den Berg. ‘At Rabobank Utrecht we have defined our cooperative spearheads in collaboration with the members council. One of them is liveability. This is why it is important that we address the issue of youth unemployment, because it is plain to see how it affects liveability in our city.’
'It is important that we address the issue of youth unemployment, because it is plain to see how it affects liveability in our city.'
821 internships a year
Rabobank in the Netherlands is comprised of the 112 local Rabobanks and their central organisation Rabobank. Rabobank offered a combined total of 821 internships, 352 starter positions and 18 apprenticeships last year. There are also numerous job shadowing programmes and class visits to local Rabobank branch offices.
Van den Berg believes signing the Netherlands Employment Accord creates a commitment that goes beyond only internships at the bank itself. While Rabobank provides opportunities for primarily young people who are gaining a higher professional or university education, a large proportion of young people in the Netherlands are completing secondary vocational education. So there is a real need for an improved alignment between students and the labour market.
Providing perspectives in the labour market
Some local Rabobanks and secondary vocational colleges have joined forces at locations across the Netherlands for the ‘Move Your Skills’ initiative that is dedicated to bringing students and companies into contact. ‘This connection is key in order to be able to offer students prospects in the labour market’, says Frank van Noort, Marketing and Communications Manager at local Rabobank Leiden-Katwijk. ‘Move Your Skills’ arranges guest lectures by members of the business community and networking events. Companies can also submit multi-disciplinary projects to the ‘Move Your Skills’ project agency. The organisation furthermore operates a training company that provides internships.
The ‘Move Your Skills’ initiative is producing results. While Van Noort would like to see the initiative lead to internships or apprenticeships for at least several hundred students a year, he already sees the countless connections it creates. A construction company, which is a Rabobank client, recently converted a space at a local hospital into a guest room to accommodate children’s parents. Students helped make the furniture. Everyone was pleased with this collaborative effort: the contractor, the hospital and the students. A request for advice on how Rabobank can make an even better connection with local businesses using ‘Move Your Skills’ internships has now been submitted to the education section of this local Rabobank‘s members council.
Pre-financing by private investors
Rabobank’s efforts are not limited to internships and access to networks. Rabobank Foundation has even launched a pilot project with social impact bonds in Utrecht. They are achievement loans that make it possible to realise a social objective. In this case the aim is to provide training to young people who do not have a starting qualification. How does it work? The Colour Kitchen has two roles: it is a professional catering company and a training and work experience centre for young people who have a poor starting position. Its programme to train 250 young people to be catering assistants, apprentice chefs and hosts or hostesses is now being pre-financed by two private investors: the Rabobank Foundation and the Start Foundation. The City of Utrecht will repay the investors as soon as the targeted social effect has been achieved in the form of a diploma or a job. ‘We want to strengthen companies like The Colour Kitchen that serve the community and provide more people with the opportunity to gain training or employment’, says Rianka Habraken, Programme Manager at the Rabobank Foundation. This programme will be carried out for four years.
Easier access to education
Connecting young people and businesses does not just benefit the young people. It also makes it easier for businesses to find interns and gives them easier access to education so they can communicate what kind of skilled workers they will need in the future. And all the participating parties, including Rabobank, are able to deepen the relationship with each other as a result.
Connecting young people and businesses does not just benefit the young people. It also makes it easier for businesses to find interns.
But the most important thing is that young people are given prospects for a bright future. And that is what motivates Annemarie van den Berg at Rabobank Utrecht. ‘Young people who are just getting their feet on the ground need to be able to start somewhere. Seeing the faces of those young people who are given an opportunity makes me happy. I think it is moving and inspiring that we can make a difference in people‘s lives. As a bank we want to make our community stronger and that starts with the youth.’
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Copyright image: © Johan G. Hahn