All Dutch VET students should spend a significant share of their study time at a workplace. However, almost 24% of VET learners with a non-Western migration background have to apply at least four times for an internship, compared to 11% of their native peers. In contrast, 68% of native VET learners need only one application to find an internship, while this is true for only 48% percent of those with a non-Western background. Learners also face discrimination during their internship.
According to the Education Minister Ingrid Van Engelshoven this is an unacceptable situation: ‘How frustrating when it is hard to find an internship just because of your family name. And you have to apply not only once or twice but maybe fifteen times. It still happens too often. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. In any case, this is unacceptable. It breaks dreams and saddles 16- and 17-year olds with the feeling there is no place for them in society’.
Campaigning against internship discrimination
The #KIESMIJ campaign against internship discrimination aims to raise awareness and support employers, VET-schools and learners in addressing it. The campaign’s central message is that everyone should be integrated in society, workplaces included, regardless of surname, belief or skin colour. The campaign emphasises focusing on VET learners’ talents, perseverance, determination and ambitions.
With personal stories of VET learners having experienced internship discrimination, spread through various digital channels, the campaign aims to reach a wide audience. The relevant online platform targets employers, schools and learners to support them in addressing the issue.
Several organisations agreed to join forces in supporting this campaign. It is a joint initiative of the education ministry, the Foundation for Cooperation on Vocational Education, Training and Labour Market (SBB), employers’ organisations, the VET student organisation JOB, the council of VET schools (MBO Raad), trade unions, the College for Human Rights, and the School and Safety Foundation expert organisation.
What can be done?
In the recent past, many initiatives have been undertaken by various organisations to address this problem. Using this platform, a wide range of advice, training programmes, video material, games, background information and reports are made available via a single source. It contributes in combating and preventing internship discrimination through manuals for schools, e-learning modules for teachers and internship supervisors, and free webinars offering internships. The site will still be accessible after the campaign period, also in collecting and disseminating new materials.
Although, according to campaigners, discrimination cannot be solved solely with a campaign, it is a step in the right direction.