With a special programme VU Amsterdam wishes to help life partners of international staff to build up their life in the Netherlands. “By offering a workshop or a coffee moment, they get to meet allies and support each other”, says relocation manager Sara Veldhorst.
The partner programme kicked off in March with a partner career workshop. The participants learn for instance that their CV shouldn’t be over 2 pages long, and that a picture and personal details can spruce up their job applications. “In the Netherlands things are a bit more direct than in some other countries. People don’t mince words. You know what someone thinks of you and you have to stand up for yourself”, says Sara Veldhorst, relocation manager for academics at VU Amsterdam.
Internationals who aren’t used to this may find it difficult to find work or build up a social life in the Netherlands. For that reason the International Office started the partner programme at VU Amsterdam. The programme not only helps the partners of international employees to navigate the Dutch labour market, but it also provides social opportunities.
‘Dutch people don’t mince words’
The idea of assisting the partners of internationals is nothing new. Various universities, both in the Netherlands and abroad, already have such programmes in place. They are often referred to as spouse support programmes or dual career programmes. It is becoming increasingly important for VU Amsterdam to offer something in the same vein.
“In 2020 over 200 international employees were hired, while in 2018 that was only about 100”, says Veldhorst. She estimates that the programme could attract roughly 50 partners per year. A number which could continue to grow. The programme allows the VU to attract and retain international employees.
“We notice from feedback that our workshops are greatly appreciated and that the partners immediately update their profiles”, says Veldhorst. Social isolation has become a common topic due to the pandemic, but even before Covid-19 the partners of international employees could face such isolation. Social events such as coffees, lunches and informational gatherings can go a long way.
“You can see spouses exchanging phone numbers because they’re all in the same boat. They all have a partner working for VU Amsterdam, while they don’t have a steady job. They’re in a type of isolation. By offering a workshop or a coffee moment, they get to meet allies and support each other.”
Unlike VU Amsterdam employees, their partners do not receive financial assistance to follow Dutch language classes. This is something that may change in time. According to Veldhorst, the partner programme is still in its infancy and will be continuously tweaked according to requests and feedback.
Contact details for the programme are displayed on the Family Matters page of the university’s career platform.