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Sustainable investment in status holder

Stedin faces an imminent shortage of technicians due to the energy transition and aging of technicians. It takes some creativity to fix this. Due to the impending shortage in combination with the inclusivity policy, they saw opportunities for permit holders to enter a training program.

We have no experience in offering Dutch language lessons. Through the UAF we came into contact with TopTaal. And we don't regret it for a moment!

Says Juul den Edel, project leader inclusivity at Stedin. Stedin is a grid operator in the Randstad. They attach great importance to sustainable business operations, also in the social field. Project leader Juul explains: "We have an active inclusivity policy, where we help people with a distance to the labor market, including the permit holder, to work sustainably at Stedin where possible."

“We have been training people to become mechanics through our company school for years. Before you can start working at Stedin, the prospective mechanic must meet quite a few requirements in terms of education level and safety certificates. For the status holders, the language component is also included. ”

Language skills at intermediate vocational level

Stedin has entered into a partnership with the UAF and Techniek College Rotterdam (TCR) to reach and train status holders. “We came into contact with highly motivated permit holders, but saw that language skills were often still insufficient to start the MBO course. Together with TopTaal we have designed a preliminary process, a combination of language lessons, preparation for the exams VCA and the meter change training, Dutch work culture and employee skills. After the preliminary phase, a two to three-year MBO program as a mechanic at the Stedin business school follows. Content advisor and teacher Jeannette Serra: “The method that TopTaal uses prepares students well for the subject of Dutch at MBO. The students practice a lot with reading and listening comprehension, vocabulary expansion and speaking in work situations. Reading comprehension in particular is difficult for most, but with a lot of effort I see them progressing step by step. Moreover, they are very motivated because they all want to work as a mechanic at Stedin. ”

One of the participants is Fitsum, 28 years old from Eritrea. He came to the Netherlands in 2015 and started the training program at Stedin in 2018. In his homeland he followed a short course in electricity, but that was nothing compared to the course at Stedin. Fitsum still has to do a few tests, but already works independently. “I have an Stedin bus with tools and am now visiting customers myself. I am very happy."

Language buddy as added value

In order to practice Dutch even more outside of class, Stedin used colleagues as language buddies. A language buddy (colleague) provides language support to the permit holder. A language buddy is an added value for Fitsum: "It is good to have someone with whom you can speak Dutch, who will correct and improve you." The enthusiasm for language buddies is great. Everyone sees the importance of speaking the Dutch language well on the work floor and during training.

Corona crisis

The balancing process had just been successfully completed when the Corona crisis came. Stedin followed the advice of the national government to contain the spread. This meant little to no activities at Stedin, including the temporary suspension of training courses. Stedin soon realized that something had to be done with the training program, because the Dutch language must be practiced permanently. The permit holders were now all at home and had few Dutch language contacts. Juul: "When Stedin invests in people, we also want to get the most out of it, which means that we don't have to stand still".

Juul immediately contacted Simone van de Pol, training advisor at TopTaal, and together they came up with the solution to offer online lessons during the Corona crisis.

Online classes

Fitsum is at home just like all other students and mechanics. As long as he is at home, he will receive extra Dutch language lessons to maintain his language skills and to continue to develop. He experiences the online lessons very positively. In fact, he likes the online lessons better: “You see each other at school and you talk a lot. You don't always pay attention and you are less concentrated. Now I learn a lot of things. I am much more concentrated. ”

In the online classes, variation is offered in skills, assignments and working methods. We work together in groups via break-out rooms. The students discuss reading texts and do speaking assignments in these separate groups. “I think it is a great advantage to work in break-out rooms. I also give one-on-one feedback here, ”says Jeannette. "I see that they are very enthusiastic about the lessons."

Online buddies

During the corona crisis, it was decided to appeal again to the language buddies. This time, too, there is a great deal of interest in helping foreign-language colleagues with their language skills. Before, the buddies met in the workplace, went on an excursion or had lunch together. Now the buddies meet online. Fitsum also has a language buddy again. They have contact for half an hour twice a week. They discuss the assignments that Fitsum has to do and talk about the current situation and everything else that is discussed. “I discuss the assignments with my language buddy if I don't understand something. I did that first with the other students. That is no longer possible. ”

Stedin is very satisfied with the collaboration with TopTaal: “TopTaal thinks along, is flexible, comes up with creative proposals and knows how to approach. We greatly appreciate that. Fitsum would like to grow further and if he has a lot of work experience:

Then I want to teach new students how to do it, then they can walk with me.

Photo by Suzanne Blanchard

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