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No experience necessary: finding work with USG Restart in the Netherlands

Opportunities for people with a distance to the labor market; focusing on talent and skills

In recent years, the Netherlands has been actively promoting a concept in which people who are willing to learn and work are hired regardless of their educational or professional background. It has gained widespread attention as a way to provide equal access to employment opportunities for people who are often rejected or sifted out by traditional hiring methods because of their distance to the labor market. USG Restart, which is headquartered in the Netherlands, has been working with the government and local companies since 2017 to develop its own version of Hiring without a resume, an employment support program that aims to help people who haven’t received sufficient education, are struggling to get a job, and are trying to take a new step in a different field.

According to Jannette van Blitterswijk, who is committed to this program said, “More and more companies around the world are prioritizing diversity in their work environments, and are eager to bring in new perspectives to their teams. However, it is difficult for companies to train people who are new to the workforce. That's where we come in, providing pre-employment training and helping job seekers find the right company for them.”

A training system that allows people to gain meaningful work experience

Under USG Restart's employment support program, job seekers work with USG Restart staff to assess their interests and working styles, and hone their skills during a total of eight months of training. After that, companies participating in the program can interview or hire the workers without a resume.

There are two main types of training. The first is provided by USG Restart, and is designed to give trainees the basic skills they need for all types of work. Many of the trainees have never worked before or have little working experiences, so they learn the basics such as time management, communication, and working in a team. The other type is provided by our partner companies, where participants learn specialized knowledge of each company and receive interactive training as needed so that they can work immediately after completing their training. A variety of courses combining the two types are available at different levels, and the trainees decide which course to take based on their interests and working styles. Some trainees attend a vocational school once or twice a week to further develop their professional skills.

Trainees are attending a training class in group

Since companies can evaluate the personalities and working styles of trainees during the training period, they can make more informed choices for both trainees and companies regarding post-hire assignments. Trainees who have no or limited work experience can get an early start on interacting with future employees to get a better idea of what the job will be like and whether it is a good fit for their personal preferences.

During the course of the training, trainees can change their course at any time if they feel that the course or the company does not match their interests. All courses are subdivided by level, and trainees are placed in small groups with other trainees of the same level. The small size of the groups allows the instructors and staff to follow up with each trainee closely, and also allows for flexibility in dealing with trainees who change courses.

Launched in 2017 in response to a request from Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo, the program has quickly spread from company to company. Now more than 50 companies are participating, and more than 300 trainees have been sent out so far. Trainees can choose a company they want to work for from many options, including supermarkets, department stores, logistics companies, government organizations, and power companies.

“Actually, this program is not quite easy, but rather demanding for many trainees, because they need to acclimate in preparation for employment their body and mindset from almost zero. However what makes the program so exciting is that it gives job seekers a clear process to follow and a direction to work towards,” said Jannette. “It is also a way for companies to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, while also reducing the risk of mismatches after hiring.”

Trainees learning how to operate a forklift

Eleni’s Challenge, finding resilience through new opportunities

One of the companies participating in this program is Stedin Group, a major electricity and gas transmissions network company in the Netherlands. Stedin joined the program in 2019 and is working with USG Restart to increase diversity in the workplace.

One person who has started her journey as an electric engineer through this program is 31-year-old Eleni de Kok. She originally worked as a dancer and choreographer, but her kidney failure diagnosis made strenuous exercise difficult, and she was forced to give up her work. Eleni was devastated by the harsh reality of her diagnosis, but after a while, she decided to take up another career that she had been interested in since childhood: being a mechanic. She had always loved working with machines, having helped her father, a car mechanic, with his work from an early age.

With her kidney failure diagnosis, Eleni was concerned about the physical demands of working outside the office. But with the support she received from Stedin and USG Restart, Eleni completed her eight months of training with excellent results.

“Eleni is a real role model for the other trainees,” said Jannette. “We have sent out more than 300 trainees so far, but not many of them have worked as hard and succeeded as she has. ”

Eleni is now working in the field as an indispensable member of the Stedin team, and mentors her colleagues in how to operate work equipment. A dedicated and hard worker, Eleni now spends half of her week at USG Restart training for another specialized position at Stedin, and is steadily preparing for the next step in her career.

A woman taking tools out from a work bus

Eleni works as an employee of Stedin. She works as a technician in the field several times a week

“I am very grateful to Stedin and USG Restart for providing me with the training and the opportunity to work,” said Eleni. “The work is challenging, but I look forward to going to work every day because I am surrounded by great people. Your hard work will be rewarded. I hope that through this program, people who want to work but don't know how to get their foot in the door will be able to find a rewarding job — just like I did.”

Jannette van Blitterswijk

Jannette van Blitterswijk

Businessline Manager at USG Restart Career

Started her career as a consultant at Start People in 2012, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business administration at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Since 2017 she is part of the organization of USG Restart, the subsidiary of RGF Staffing the Netherlands focusing on an inclusive and sustainable labor market. As of July 2021 Jannette became Businessline Manager of USG Restart Career, the secondment part of USG Restart. Her ambition for this business is to be the best employer for special talent and every activity in her teams contributes to this ambition.

Jan 17, 2022

This article is based on information available at the time of publication.