The city of Antwerp has turned the challenge of integrating refugees into the labour market into an opportunity to transition to a circular economy.
This project was shortlisted for the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2017 in the following category: Participation.
Antwerp is centre of the Belgian fashion industry, home to a renowned fashion academy and designers such as Marc Jacobs and Dries van Noten. Yet refugees arriving from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria with experience in the industry find it impossible to get work. Their lack of formal qualifications isn’t the only thing standing in their way. Poverty, personal presentation and confidence also play a part in preventing them accessing the jobs they have the skills and talent to do. From the start, the OCMW team was clear that the initiative must pay attention to participants’ inner selves, their self-confidence and wellbeing, as well as their outer selves, their appearance and clothes. Through debates with the target audience, the team then defined the mix of practical, psychological and professional support needed.
The lead agencies for the project are the city of Antwerp and OCMW. The total annual budget of €674,000 funds five full-time staff and nine temporary work experience roles.
Through relentless effort in these areas and continuous innovation and improvement, Inside Out has evolved from a small project into the comprehensive service it is today. Renowned fashion stylist Gerdi Esch helped secure the commitment of companies such as Torfs and Carrefour.
The OCMW team’s immediate ambitions are to move more Inside Out professionals into local production and to bring their world ever closer to that of local fashion designers through collaborations.
The OCMW team believes this success owes much to four factors:
- involving the target group from the beginning;
- making use of social media to tell the project’s human stories;
- raising its profile among employers and suppliers, and
- providing psychosocial guidance to those gaining labour experience.
- Cities in action - Antwerp Inside Out, boosting products, boosting people, creating jobs for refugees - Eurocities, November 2017
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