ESF-ambassadors 2016

The ESF-ambassadors of 2016 are:

  • "Connect2Work"
  • 'STEMsters"
  • ''Morele stress in de (ouderen)zorg"


From HIVA-KULeuven

The Connect2Work project provides guidance for highly skilled non-native speakers who wish to acquire a job that is in accordance with their degree.  They need to have at least a bachelor degree, their stay in Belgium should be less than 6 years and they should master the Dutch language to a sufficient degree. The Labour Research Institute of KULeuven has worked out this project, in close cooperation with the Flemish employment service (VDAB) and Atlas ngo.

How do they proceed?

Connect2Work establishes contact moments between voluntary mentors and their mentees (highly-skilled foreigners).  The mentors are attracted through social media (LinkedIn), through companies as well as through word-of-mouth advertising. By means of tailored coaching, the mentors ensure that the mentees get acquainted with specific sectors which relate closely to their educational background. In order to proceed with the guidance in optimal circumstances, the mentors use a manual and they can exchange experiences during mentor evenings.

By the end of 2015, 72 mentors had succeeded in coaching 96 mentees. Of course, this does not imply that all of the mentees have found a job, but at least they already have gained some knowledge regarding the Belgian sectors. For the mentors the advantage is that another  (innovative) view may emerge, which may be helpful on the job-floor. Moreover, the mentors’ coaching skills will be improved thanks to this project.
At the moment, this project is carried out in the city of Antwerp only, but the intention exists to extend it to the province as a whole.

Why do they participate?

VDAB (the Flemish employment service) and Atlas ngo have found that many foreigners carry out a profession which is below their educational level, in order to have some kind of income anyhow. As these people hold the potential to introduce new insights on our labour market, it is essential to guide them to a job on an appropriate level. The project has succeeded in securing an appropriate job for 40% of the participants. Some of the other participants have been offered an internship in companies or a more extensive training. The project offers the participants a better understanding of sectors and it also improves their self-confidence.

What may help them?

At present, only one out of 12 mentees can get a mentor. It is therefore crucial to extend the pool of mentors. Are you interested to become a mentor for a skilled foreigner? Send an e-mail message to: Peter De CuyperPatrick Noël Vercruysse or Luk Groffy

You can find more information here.



From Karel de Grote Hogeschool in cooperation with Universiteit Antwerpen, Agoria vzw and VDAB

By means of the STEMSTERS project Antwerp Charlemagne College wishes to attract  more female candidates towards ‘STEM’ fields of study and  functions (STEM is an abbreviation of Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics).
In order to achieve this:

  • They have designed a website offering practical advice;
  • They provide training for HR- and communication officers to issue better job vacancies;
  • They have edited a general writing pointer.

More specifically, the project comes down to the following 3 aspects:

  1. Issue function names using pairs: that is to say,  use female plumber/plumber instead of plumber m/f.
  2. Use adjectives with a gender-specific connotation: consider the connotation of adjectives: words with a gender-specific connotation  are more appealing to women than words with a rather male connotation: e.g. entrepreneurial generally is perceived as rather male, passionate generally is perceived  as rather female. See here the list of 225 adjectives.
  3. Describe capabilities in terms of behaviour: describe male characteristics in terms of behaviour instead of characteristics. Do not say ‘You are competitive’, but ‘You may excel in a competitive environment’.

This advice has been collected through:

  • study of existing scientific research,
  • proper research containing amongst others an analysis of Flemish study brochures and job vacancies; a standardising study questioning 450 people; an experiment with 750 adolescents

In the years to come, they would like to carry out further research and provide training for people on the job-floor. You can find more information about the project here

Contact: Maayke Nabuurs and Dries Vervecken


Moral distress in care for the elderly

From Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen in cooperation with Woonzorggroep GVO

Together with the GVO care centre group, which covers 11 care centres all over the province of West-Vlaanderen, HoWest College has taken up the challenge to define and analyse the concept of moral distress in care for the elderly. Based on an extensive research overview and a combined quantitative and qualitative research, they have designed an action plan and tools which are intended to support care centres and their managers to detect moral distress among caregivers, to bring it up for discussion and to handle it.

Obviously, it was not self-evident: the last decennia have seen a growing interest in moral distress in studies, on the job-floor, however, it was a completely new concept. The project researchers looked  for a practical definition and came up with the following: ‘Moral distress is the sourish feeling that caregivers experience whenever they can not put into practice their values and vision regarding good care.’ More specifically, this means that caregivers experience a gap between their view on good care and reality. Because of the heavy workload and the strict organisation within the care sector, it often occurs that caregivers feel uncomfortable, because they would like to listen to people, but that this is prevented because of the strict time schedule.

A survey was set up among more than 200 caregivers from the GVO group. The survey has shown that moral distress is a main issue for the partner organisation. The management of the organisation was somewhat surprised: more staff members than expected suffer from moral distress on a regular basis. Moreover, moral distress turned out to be closely related to turnover intentions. This is demonstrated by studies, which have proved that moral distress relates to decreasing job satisfaction, falling-out, burn-out and turnover of caregivers. In the context of sustainable  employability and the demand for ‘sustainable work’ this is an important observation. Research proved that there is a tight relationship between burn-out and moral distress.

It was decided to set up a pilot project in three care centres facing a different level of moral distress. In semi-structured interviews and focus groups with both managers and other staff members an overview was made up regarding moral distress. The researchers used the method of Appreciative Enquiry and looked for strong points within each of the teams and care centres. The project was carried out without encountering problems: staff members and managers were enthusiastic to participate and understood at an early stage what the concept exactly is about.  The strategic choice to reach out to many people at the same time was time-consuming, but it was in the end quite successful: a tailored language is offered to staff members, through which they can easily discuss moral distress. Consequently, several service providers were interested to integrate this in their operation.
Finally, 5 out of the 11 care centres of the GVO group were involved. At a later stage, the results of the project will be integrated in the 6 remaining care centres. The project’s objective was to  offer staff members a platform to discuss this fairly specific type of stress and moral distress, to recognise it as a form of stress that is inherent to the care sector, but also holds a powerful ethical vitality: staff members who experience moral distress, are focused on the quality of care. This is stimulated through an ethical culture, introduced by means of tools, workshops and through the active involvement of managers as key figure: it is crucial that they should offer their staff members the opportunity to discuss moral distress.

The cooperation ran smoothly: both organisations knew what to expect from each other and look forward to future evolutions. The results of this project will be used in future care training in West-Vlaanderen College: future nurses and students from other care trainings will be supported by Howest College to tackle moral distress. The care centre group GVO for its part will optimise the implementation of the project throughout the whole organisation, by means of training courses for their managers.

Moral distress evidently is  not limited to the sector of care for the elderly only. It is key that the concept is introduced in the care sector as a whole. The vast majority of the tools are therefore transferable to this broader context. For this reason, the Research cluster Nursing of Howest College intends to focus on spreading the project results by means of information sessions and training. Moreover, information sessions will be provided to prevention advisers and medical officers, so that they  also develop an understanding of the concept of moral distress.

Would you like to know more  about this project? Read  here !

Contact: Herlinde Dely en Céline Baele