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For the explanation of the new labour market figures, we are not in the town hall but at Five Guys on a corner of the Markt. That may sound strange, but alderman Staf Depla (Economic Affairs) has his reasons for this. To show that Eindhoven’s employment policy is bearing fruit, he regularly organizes his press interviews on location. In many cases, these are places where something special is happening in favour of people with a distance from the labour market. Today as well.

For a very long time, on occasions like this, he was talking about the favourable exceptions, but since May of last year, the month in which the number of people entitled to social assistance (participation law) started to decrease for the first time, these are examples of a more visible trend. It goes without saying that this has everything to do with economic prosperity and the subsequent tightness of the labour market, but according to Depla, more is happening. “How else could it be that, in the top 20 cities, we have climbed from position 20 to number 4, if you look at the largest percentage outflow of social assistance?”

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In December, as well, the number of people benefiting from the unemployment law (ww) and social assistance (participation law, bijstand) continued to fall. For the ww, this trend has been going on for a year and a half, and for bijstand for eight months in a row. Depla says that, on top of the favourable economy, the national trend in Eindhoven is reinforced by the chosen methods, with acquisition and employment managers. Emma Briggs, responsible for acquisition, explains how this works: “We look carefully around us to interest companies and chains to start a business in Eindhoven. In doing so, we keep an eye on what would fit well here. Five Guys, for example, a chain that was not yet active in the Benelux, has also come to our attention. In doing so, we not only take care of bringing in such a company but also of what we call the soft landing.”

For the latter, employment manager Marianne Wellerd takes action. “For my team, it is especially important that we ensure that as many people as possible can work in a sustainable way. We know our people, of course, so we can ensure a good match that has an effect on both sides. In this process, we have special attention to people for whom it is not easy to get a permanent job. For example, we were able to agree with Five Guys that at least ten people with a distance from the labour market would be employed. That has been quite successful.”

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At Five Guys, that approach worked very well, says Regional Manager Bruce Rascher. “We see every new restaurant as an extension of our family. And because there’s a fundament of trust between family members, we never ask for experience or background in the job applications, but rather try to find out how much someone wants to work for us. We stick to the words of Barack Obama, who once praised us extensively for the opportunities we offer people.”

This “offering opportunities” goes further than just the first contract, says Rascher. “We have had people at Five Guys who have never had a job in the past and have managed to climb up in the organization in a few years time, and sometimes even make the transition to a branch in another country. This was recently the case with an employee in Dublin. She is no the assistant manager in our restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.”

According to Rascher, the key to this career path is the continuous training that employees receive from their own teachers. “And every employee is well aware of our culture. We all are happy that we can work here, and we want to show it, straightforward but not in a fake way.” What might help in keeping them happy, is the mystery reporter who pays each Five Guys restaurant a visit, twice a week. “Nobody knows who it is, but if such a person gives the team a favourable assessment, then every employee who was on duty at that specific time gets a bonus on his salary.”

Comply with your agreement

What already works well with Five Guys now (the Eindhoven business is only one month old and the family already has 70 members), could still be improved elsewhere, says Depla. “There’s still a lot we can do to help people find a permanent job. For example, we are regularly told by employers that people are leaving during participation programmes. Apparently, we need to show even more clearly that it is not without obligation that candidates have to comply with their agreements. In addition, there is still more profit to be gained by not letting people who do not immediately succeed in the process go off too quickly. And finally, extra attention is needed for the group of elderly people. Things are really getting better for young people, but it is even more difficult for older people to find a sustainable way to get a steady job.”