The new UvA mentoring programme Meet your Mentor (MYM) launches on Thursday 26 November. In this project, 29 third-year bachelor’s and master’s students with non-western backgrounds and/or first-generation students will be linked up with a professional. In the coming months, these mentors will guide the students in their transition to the labour market. MYM aims to reduce inequality of opportunity in the labour market for this group of graduates.
At the kick-off students and mentors meet each other (online) for the first time. Twenty-year-old Nadia Murady (Media & Information) did not hesitate for a moment: ‘As a young woman – with an ethnic minority background and ambitions to work in the media sector – I don’t have a broad network yet and I don’t know where to begin. I signed up because I thought it sounded good to discuss my goals with a mentor and receive some advice. I hope to improve my approach and my job application methods so as to increase my chances.’
The programme involves online training that both mentors and mentees take part in through the MYM digital platform. Students will expand their networks and receive help in gaining clarity on personal and professional development goals. The training for the professionals deals with issues such as the meaning of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the sharing of tips and tricks. After the training, each mentor-mentee pair will schedule a meeting to discuss relevant topics at least once a month.
Project leader Meltem Halaceli, who herself graduated from the UvA in 2008, tells her story: ‘As a first-generation student with a Turkish-Arabic migration background, I didn’t have any role models, let alone a coach who supported me. Finding a job at the right level took a lot of networking and above all perseverance. I had to invent the wheel by myself. Personal support and a training course with practical tips would certainly have helped me make quicker progress and overcome all sorts of uncertainty at an earlier stage.’
The participating students study at the Faculties of Economics & Business, Social & Behavioural Sciences and Humanities. Most of the mentors are UvA alumni who are now working in the public or private sector. ‘Personally, I think diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity are extremely important. That’s why I decided to take part. I’m happy to use my knowledge and experience to help young people with a find their way in the labour market. This groups includes talents of the future,’ says mentor Antoinette Gast, founder of tuyu bv, a company specialising in fair-trade corporate gifts.
Finding a suitable job can be difficult enough for students who have just graduated, but it is far more difficult for students background and first-generation students. Recent research into discrimination on ethnic grounds in the Dutch labour market, conducted by UvA sociologist Bram Lancee, indicates that young people with a have a 40% lower chance of being approached by an employer (‘Etnische discriminatie op de Nederlandse arbeidsmarkt’ [Ethnic discrimination in the Dutch labour market], in Mens en Maatschappij, AUP, 2019). Previous research on integration showed that young people with a had an almost 50% lower chance of finding a job at an appropriate level, compared with young people from western backgrounds and the same education (‘Integratie in zicht’ [Integration within sight], Netherlands Institute for Social Research, 2010). A joint study by VU Amsterdam, Radboud University and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NISCALE) came to the discouraging conclusion that as a job applicant, you would actually be in a better position if you had a criminal record (‘Afkomst weegt bij sollicitatie zwaarder dan strafblad’ [Origin is greater hindrance than criminal record when applying for a job], in NRC, 2017).
The Meet Your Mentor programme was developed and evaluated at VU Amsterdam in 2016–2018 in collaboration with the ECHO Expertise Centre for Diversity Policy and funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs. At the UvA, the programme is part of the Executive Board’s Diversity Policy Document and is being implemented by the Chief Diversity Officer team.