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28 - 29 May 2015 - Meeting in Netherlands

Dutch self fullfilling social experiments the solution for the young and the jobless?

Mr. Pieter G.J.C. van Schie MA*

*St. Dutch Foundation of Innovation Welfare 2 Work


A new era for the young & the jobless

The economy in general and the Dutch economy has become more and more international: Knowledge and information don’t have borders and collabouration and competition across nations are gaining. The Dutch society is more and more based on the individual and at the same time the labour market is very flexible. The influence of churches, unions, and political parties is diminishing and is being replaced by social networks (both on as off line). Knowledge becomes the most valuable asset. Children have to gain at least the same level of education (or even higher) of that of their parents. As of 2020 a totally new generation will enter the labour market: The Z-Generation (born in between 1999-2010):

1. grows up with innovative Technologies  and interactive

2. has trouble with hierarchy structures;

3. and has the need for flexible learn and work environment(s)


This will ask a total new approach of learning and demands a different standard of the educational institutions and welfare to work System, but also demands a different standard from employers. To avoid the Z-Generation becoming ‘young & Jobless’ it remains that one of the most basic expectations of general education is that it will enable young people to get a job when they leave school.  Currently we live in a fast moving world. While employers continue to demand high academic standards, they also now want more. They want young people who can adapt, see connections, innovate, communicate and work with others. This is true in many areas of work.


The Dutch Work First Ideology ruled for a decade

One of the most interesting things The Way to Learn 2 Work Partnership has bumped into in May 2015 is that although we live in a fast changing world and most of the time we don’t know what kind of jobs will be created or will be still there in the future the most powerfull and succesfull Dutch social experiments and projects nowadays are aligned to the dominant Work First ideology. Work First (through numerous variations: target group young people; with emphasis to gate keeping, through work with keep of benefit, through subsidized wages, etc.) has been ruling in the Netherlands for almost a decade. Through this WF System the Netherlands was leading the pack regarding lowest (youth) unemployment in Europe. The Budget cuts as of 2012 changed the social landscape (less commercial providers and trainers, more done by the case managers of the municipality and their aligned foundations & companies, although work first elements were included in the ideology of today: It’s your duty to do something for your benefit (the system pushes people into ‘voluntary work’). The Work First ideology ruled the Dutch Welfare to Work system in the period 2003 -2012, but was dismantled fast by the Dutch municipalities since 2012 because of the major cutbacks. Strong elements aligned to this period such as own responsibillity, self-reliance and empowerment remained and developed locally in social experiments. It’s done by young people from the neighbourhood for the young people in the neighbourhood. Surprisingly: Also here a big part of its success is that ‘Lack of Money’ first almost endangered closure of the Communuity House in Breda and led to termination of aligned local projects. But a strong movement of motivated volunteers and young people overruled the local government and they allowed them to experiment, to direct and save their Community House and aligned projects.


Initiatives from the citizens and their young people have become trending and moreover formally part of local policy. Actually the people have the innitiative and the young citizen can lead and participate. In Breda, the Netherlands the ‘W2L2W-partnership’ has seen several of these good initiatives (ONS Coop, Grote broer,Grote Zus /’’Big Brother, Big Sister’, Get Started, etc.). The merits of the Dutch social initiatives and projects the last couple of years can easily be compared as ‘transition towns’ (a village, town, neigbourhood that takes control of their own village, town, neigbourhood regarding the way of living, working, solutions and dependancy of the local authorities).


The Way 2 Learn 2 Work Partnership has seen that this Dutch active citizenship is a movement which is pretty dominant and is born and developed on local level. Young people and citizens form their own alliances to back up their initiatives. New (in)formal social networks start up and function amazingly well.  The Golden Threads of these initiatives is the trust and confidence the initiatives usually get, which most of the time results in very tailor made and high quality projects. It’s more than common – just as we have seen in Breda – that the social experiment evolves and develops into a social enterprise which is capable to act fast and solve transparently and quickly local social issues.


‘It’s as simple as that: It’s ‘The Way 2 Learn 2 Work!’

The Dutch concept is very simple, but this is also a major difficulty for all those local, regional and national authorities. The power literally moves to the (young) people… The future will tell if these social experiments will stay only a Dutch feature or will also be transferred to other EU-countries.  We can state that the nomination and Good Practice award for The Dutch project ‘Grote Broer, Grote Zus’ (‘Big Brother, Big Sister’) by the ‘Way 2 Learn 2 Work’ partnership is a good start. The ‘Big Brother, Big Sister’ project takes full responsibility in the community to improve quality of life, safety & social cohesion in the neighborhood of Hoge Vucht, Doornbos & Linie. This programme is done by, for and with the young people of the mentioned communities.

Other Good Practices from other EU-countries could also take the lead in Europe. The following projects were identified as EU Good Practice through a Museum Session of the Way 2 Learn 2 Work Partnership: Job Destination Europe (U.bus; Germany), Pedagogical Canteens & Restaurants (Gobierno Canary Islands; Spain), Activity Agreements -National Programme- delivered locally by local authorities and organisations (Scottish Government; United Kingdom) and; Ability to Handle your Situation Alone (CTANM Politechnica University of Bucharest; Romania).


All these Good Practices have 3 crucial elements for succes:

1) A good functioning network of partners involved;

2) Provision of work (experience); and

3) high quality coaching.


It’s as simple as that: It’s ‘The Way 2 Learn 2 Work!’



Pieter GJC van Schie MA

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28 - 29 May 2015 - Meeting in Netherlands

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The Way to Learn to Work project is funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.