"It is our aspiration that all people of Amsterdam with disabilities have an opportunity to become participants in our city"

Digital skills as a key to work integration

Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) are crucial actors in fostering the labor integration of individuals at risk of exclusion from the labor market. These social enterprises often operate in labor-intensive sectors and are continuously seeking ways to improve and modernize their services.

According to the report from the European B-WISE project, one of the biggest challenges currently facing WISEs is the digital skills gap. Many employees lack the digital competencies that are becoming increasingly important in a rapidly digitizing world. This is further exacerbated by a lack of access to adequate training and educational programs focused on these essential skills.

The B-WISE project aims to bridge this gap by developing specific training curricula aimed at employees, their mentors, and their managers within WISEs. These programs are designed not only to improve technical skills but also to promote essential soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and creativity.

The strategic use of digital technologies plays a key role in strengthening the sector, not only by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of WISEs but also by enhancing the accessibility and quality of services for target groups.

The B-WISE research highlights the importance of cross-sector collaboration and the need for continuous support from policymakers to ensure a more inclusive labor market. The B-WISE project remains an example of how targeted efforts and collaboration can lead to significant progress in the work integration of vulnerable groups.

And how does that work in the Netherlands?

The report on the situation of Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) in the Netherlands reveals that these organizations are increasingly seen as a stepping stone to the regular labor market. This shift began in 2015 with the introduction of the Participation Act. Prior to this, only government institutions could establish social workplaces, which were heavily subsidized by local governments. These subsidies have since decreased, leading to the closure of some of these workplaces. Nowadays, private enterprises can also manage such workplaces, which are now considered fully-fledged WISEs.

An important aspect of the Dutch approach is that there are no specific government support measures for WISEs. Instead, these organizations, like other enterprises, can benefit from general policy measures that promote a level playing field for all businesses. This is seen as a way to make the private sector responsible for the integration of workers with a distance to the labor market.

Despite this approach, WISEs in the Netherlands have access to a wide range of coherent policy measures that ultimately form a supportive system. However, there is criticism about the lack of specific support measures tailored to the needs of WISEs, compared to other countries where such support is more attuned to the specific challenges and needs of WISEs.

For more information about the B-WISE project and the full report, visit the website b-wiseproject.eu.

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