Without contact with colleagues, there is sometimes little work happiness left

December 6, 2021 by No Comments

Panic broke out, says Lenny van Keulen, when ten of her forty-four colleagues were fired this summer because of a corona reorganization. Van Keulen was allowed to stay on as coordinator day management of the Tilburg pop stage 013. She is happy with that. Making sure that everything is ready for a performance, that there is beer from the pipeline, and making the planning for the (thinned) team is normally ‘fun’ for her.

But with effect from the last strict measures, she mainly ensures that the building does not become a haunted house. “I support the facility manager with maintenance and cleaning. And help figure out things in the field of sustainability, so that we can apply them immediately when we can start again.”

Van Keulen is confronted by the pandemic with the fragility of its industry. “I have to look into other options,” she thinks. In August she hears from an acquaintance that 22,000 free development advice is being given away by the government. Anyone who registers quickly with a participating career adviser has a chance of winning a place. In the advice, the career counselor looks at a person’s personality and financial situation, and at any new career opportunities. Van Keulen registers immediately – also on the advice of her employer.

The free help with a career question is part of a long-standing cabinet plan that has to do with ‘learning and working’. From 2018 to 2020, the government already offered working people over the age of 45 free career advice. With the corona crisis came the need to expand this arrangement.

“Early in the crisis it became clear that the labor market position of many people suddenly became a lot more insecure,” says a spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. “They want to know whether they can continue to do their job, and what alternatives are available.” The development advice must provide answers to exactly those questions.

They looked like concert tickets

The development recommendations turned out to be extremely popular. Registrations went through the career coach himself. After the sessions and handing in a considerable amount of paperwork, he received a subsidy. The 22,000 opinions in the first round were already given within a month.

The cabinet therefore decided to grant another 50,000 advices worth a total of 35 million euros from 1 December. “As if I had to order tickets for a concert”, that is how participating career coach Tessa Dekkers described the application process. She was sitting in front of her computer at midnight. Not unwise, because within a day all places were full.

The crisis does not make everyone unemployed, but it does make a lot of people think, says Dekkers. “I have coached people who have been touched by corona, and people who have doubted for ten years whether they are in the right place and see the free advice as a nudge. For example, some get a lot of happiness at work from contact with colleagues. And now that that is gone, they notice that there is little left.”

Yet only four in ten participants in the first round of the development advice mention (the consequences of) the corona crisis as a reason for seeking help. This was revealed by research by policy research agency Regioplan. Commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, the agency conducted a survey among 12,897 participants of the first round. The authors of the report also interviewed 26 career counselors and organizations.

For one in five participants, the fact that the help cost nothing was even the only reason to register

Relatively many participants came from the sports, art and culture sector (8.2 percent) and from the events sector (6.7 percent), it turned out. Half of the participants had already planned to be advised and now did so because it was free. For just over a fifth of the participants, the fact that the help was free was even the only reason to register.

Uncertain time

Sien Wassenaar read about the free advice in the newspaper and found coach Dekkers via Facebook. Wassenaar did the marketing for an organization that provides amateur lessons and training in the performing arts. Due to corona, her contract was not extended in August last year.

“It sounds crazy”, says Wassenaar now, “but I wanted to see if I could get started as a freelancer in these uncertain times. I’ve been around that for years, but I didn’t dare.” The development advice helped. Wassenaar has been working as an independent marketer for some time now.

It remains to be seen whether the development advice has such a positive effect on everyone. It is well known which groups of employees are particularly attractive. More than two thirds of all participants in the first round have a higher education. About 7 percent have no diplomas, a quarter have completed secondary school or an MBO education.

And that while the cabinet wants to help the less educated. For years it has explicitly stated that it has wanted to support ‘people with a vulnerable position in the labor market’. This can also be people with a temporary contract or health problem. Those groups are actually the worst affected by the corona crisis, the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau concluded in July last year.

The Scientific Council for Government Policy previously referred to the fact that the people who need it most are the least likely to register for career advice.

The free advice had to be set up quickly, the ministry spokesperson said. To keep it simple, it was therefore not targeted at specific target groups.

Without a coach step is often too big

Free career advice will be available again in 2022, the ministry announces. It is not yet known to which groups this aid will apply, the spokesperson said. There will also be a personal budget, intended for study or training, which will replace the tax deduction for study costs. Dekkers believes that the combination of training and career advice is really necessary. “Because the step to a new education is too big for many people without a coach.”

“Before I followed the development advice, I liked about ten thousand things,” says music venue coordinator Van Keulen. “That coaching forced me to think.” Finally, with the help, she came up with a plan in an unexpected direction. She is going to follow a higher vocational education in Nutrition and Dietetics, so that she can work in a hospital, for example.

For Van Keulen, this training is also a kind of ‘insurance’. She mainly has catering experience, no diplomas for a job with the same salary as she earns now. She would prefer to continue to work at her pop stage, but how long that is still possible is uncertain. “And I’m getting older too,” she says. “Should I ever have to leave here, I don’t want to go back to spending whole evenings behind the bar.”