Integration and economic independence of immigrants

Created by MentorProgramma Friesland - Friesland College


What social challenge would you like to address?

MentorProgramma Friesland – part of the regional vocational educational institute Friesland College – takes the initiative to become a social challenge provider in the North of the Netherlands. The issue that we address and wish to solve is the powerful integration of immigrants and refugees in our region – seeking an innovative solution that replaces the process of slow integration by informed steps towards economic independence.

In the past decades, the province of Friesland has witnessed different immigration waves, similar to the case of Europe in general. Specific in the case of Friesland is the higher representation of asylum seekers: first generation immigrants that feel at home and wish to stay here.

However, their integration is slowed down by the specific features of the Frisian society, with a different culture, language and identity within Dutch society, and with specific potentials due to recent innovations.
One of these features is the spirit of community. Individuals, neighbours, village communities and local governments have been offering instant helping hand and a safe haven to refugees. There is a high sense of compassion and inclusion towards refugees which has led to ‘taking care of’ and ‘caring for’ immigrants instead of stimulating their development in relation to their new culture: Friesland.
Another feature is the large number of SME’s in the region where job vacancies are mainly spread through inner networks and networking instead of official recruitment channels.
The region has specific and upcoming sectors and experiences new flows of innovations recently. This trend results in new types of enterprises and jobs: jobs that are highly unknown to and unrecognized by job-searching immigrants. So, at the end, immigrants lack tools to develop their mindset and competences according to the specific offer of the region. The motto is: ‘What can I offer to Friesland, and what can the Frisian economy offer to me?’

MentorProgramma Friesland and its collaborative partners in education (Friesland College, ROC Friese Poort, Nordwin College, VHL, NHL and Stenden universities of applied sciences), as well as in government and businesses recognize this need and seek new solutions that can be implemented in the region.

Target community and Location

1. The challenge, the target group and the challenge owner are located in Friesland, in the North of the Netherlands.

2. Target group is the new immigrant population of Friesland, of different ages, educational levels, skills and ethnic backgrounds. This group mainly consists of refugees from Syria, with a residence permit and the intention to stay in Friesland. MPF and her collaborative partners are aware of the fact that these new citizens are highly needed in the region, in order to combat a shrinking population and to strengthen the economy.

3. MentorProgramma Friesland matches students to role models in Frisian society. The programme is a research-based best practice within vocational and higher education since 1997. Approximately 50 percent of the total population that MPF reaches every year, is immigrant youth and adults.


1. There is a strong link between the challenge and the vision / plan / strategy of MentorProgramma Friesland. MPF contributes to the personal development of people through empowerment, coaching and role models.

2. MPF has been involved in the integration of immigrant students in society, by linking them to mentors from businesses. The effect of the matches has been study of research and it shows strong results such as increased self-esteem, social / communicational skills and a stronger personal / professional network.

3.Mrs Betty Bijvoets and mrs Szilvia Simon act as champions for the challenge. Mrs Bijvoets is founder of MPF and has been leading the programme since its start. Mrs. Simon coordinates MPF; she is in charge of the acquisition of companies (mentors) and students and she initiates research, events and new collaborations.


1. Initiatives in the field of the integration of migrants focus mainly on language support, social connections and a general knowledge of the Netherlands. MPF seeks new solutions that show the specific character and new development of the Frisian labour market to immigrants and challenges them to develop and grow.

2. We call for new solutions that:
• address the development of individuals, in relation to the specific offer of a region;
• focus on the personal learning goal and talent of immigrants, in relation to the new culture they are in;
• create curiosity for new innovations, trends, new jobs and entrepreneurship ;;
• aim to create new role models within the target group
• help immigrants to find out what they don’t know yet and need to know for their future in Friesland, in relation to economic and financial independence;
• offer tailor-made approach;
• think on a multilevel, multi-sectoral and multicultural way;
• Contribute to vitalizing the Frisian region.


MentorProgramma Friesland offers a wide range of support to the emerging solution provider. We offer access to our regional network of corporates and organizations that welcome new initiatives in the field.
MPF also offers its methodology and data in the field of mentoring, based on 20 years of experience in matching people, learning goals and ambitions.
Members of the team as well as collaborative partners offer their time and expertise to contribute to the implementation of the new solution.

1. MPF has a network of almost 300 mentors from Frisian businesses. This mentor network is supported by NGO’s and by government that believe in the instrument of mentoring. 

2. Being part of Innovation Pact Friesland, challenge provider MPF has the intention as well as the network to collaborate on a sustainable way.

The Challenge Owner

MentorProgramma Friesland - Friesland College

MentorProgramma Friesland is a school-based mentoring programme that matches young people with mentors from the world of work and follow-up studies, based on the learning goal of students and the unique life-, school- and work experience of mentors.