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Pilot project ‘immersive language customised to job’ successful at Brussels Airport

The pilot project whereby non native speakers receive an intensive language course customised to their future job, is causing many happy faces. The employers at the airport even want to expand the project.

At Brussels Airport, the language in the work place is in many cases Dutch. But the companies need additional staff and many job seekers from the region – primarily from Brussels – speak little or no Dutch. For this reason, several organisations and companies decided to start a pilot project, customised to the job and to the non-native speakers.

Baggage handlers

The initiative came from Brussels Airport House (an organisation for employment and training at the airport, set up by a number of partners from Flanders and Brussels, editor’s note), the Brussels training service Bruxelles Formation, work consultants Actiris and VDAB, the Social Fund for Transport and Logistics (SFTL) and companies Aviapartner, Swissport and DHL.

These last three companies have an on-going demand for new and trained people to take luggage and cargo to and from the aircraft, to repackage goods and to store goods temporarily or otherwise. But that requires a certain knowledge of the language.

Crash course

In the autumn of 2017, Brussels Airport House made a pre-selection of candidates. They were able to get to know the companies during a job day. Then the real work began.

The non-native speakers were first given an intensive language course lasting one month, under the guidance of a language expert of the VDAB. The focus was on the language knowledge needed to perform the job of ‘ramp handler’ or ‘loader sorter’ of luggage. This was followed by a technical course of five days for a basic knowledge of the procedures for hazardous goods, live animals, and so on. Experts from the three participating companies took charge of this. Finally, the candidates were allowed to roll up their sleeves during a practical week, after which they were given a contract with one of the employers.

Structural operation

Last week, ten (former) job-seekers started working for their new employer. Satisfied faces all round, for the companies are also asking for the course to be repeated and expanded with other jobs. At Brussels Airport House they are now looking into how this operation can be organised in a structural way.


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