Personalised culturally sensitive assistance to unemployed migrants in Brussels

How can we reach unemployed migrants in Brussels? How can we bridge or reduce the gap between the job market and employment, training or a befitting career? This blog describes how the Bxl@work ESF project employs a personalised culturally sensitive approach to bridge this gap.


Bxl@work*, an ESF employment project, has been running in Brussels since January 2018. The project is run by four big federations in Brussels, FAAB vzw, vzw AIF +, IC vzw and FMDO vzw. These four federations are umbrella organizations that co-ordinate and guide more than 200 registered groups and non-governmental organizations from diverse communities with a migration background.

For whom?

 ICT lessons on how to attach and send your cv
and motivation letter by using your smartphone or tablet
The project focuses on job seekers (18 years +) with a migration background (newcomers, refugees, first and second generation) living in Brussels. They find it difficult to get a job, training, or build a career because of limitations like the lack of work experience, low educational level, limited knowledge of Dutch/French, psychological and social challenges/obstacles, age-related discrimination, insufficient knowledge of existing services or a mix of all these factors. They usually need more support, intensive guidance and more information than the regular mainstream guidance that the main state employment services (VDAB and Actiris) provide.

What and how?

BXL@work focuses on a personal culturally sensitive approach, where we pay particular attention to the job seekers' aspirations, expectations and preferences and link these to the realities of the career and job market in Brussels and Belgium at large. Thus, creating new choices and opportunities. We also pay attention to the social and welfare obstacles that impede the search for a job.

Lessons on how to apply for a job, job interviews,
and how to practice Dutch language
The federations are represented by four job consultants and are located in five strategic areas in Brussels (Schaerbeek, Molenbeek, Anderlecht, Molenbeek-canal and Etterbeek). Consultations can be done not only in these five locations but also in the offices/befitting spaces of partner organizations, in public institutions like libraries, public parks, etc. We strive as much as possible to reduce the gap to getting a job/training. In extreme situations consultations can be done in the residence of the service user.

Language barrier is minimized as our consultations are done in five different languages (Spanish, Arabic, English, Dutch, French) with the aim to getting the service users to eventually study one of the official languages in Belgium.

Workshops and trainings are organised for service users in schools, partner services and employers. These include short and adapted trainings/workshops on how to get a job in Brussels, how to apply for a job, job interviews, how to practice Dutch in Brussels, job related computer lessons together with Brusselleer (the analphabet Dutch school) etc.

Aims and results

The project has two aims:

1) reaching the target population through regular services and through the communities (groups, organizations, churches, mosques, ceremonies, festivities and activities)

A presentation for the Indonesian community in Schaarbeek,
Brussels, on how to get a job or training 
and practice your Dutch 
2) forming a gateway to the mainstream services and from mainstream services to and with the people. We don’t reach out just to a wider migrant public, but through the member organizations of the federations, bridges are built between partner services and people. We bring these services closer to the people. In this way we access more people, services and needs.

The target is not just to get a job, training or career, but also to empower, to get rid of obstacles and to get job seekers as self-supporting as possible. This is done through valorising competencies, building competencies, linking employers and job seekers, raising awareness and more. These are all done for and together with the job seekers, employers and partner organizations.

We select, prepare and link candidates to employers or job referrals or training programs with our partners like CSCA, GroepIntro and many others. They also refer potential candidates to us.

The extra about Bxl@work

Distinctive about this project is the focus on contextual and personal problems, hindrances or challenges that increase the gap to a job/training.

This can be a single mother who cannot find an appropriate day or after school care for the kids, housing problems, partner relations crisis/problems, issues related to the legal stay in Belgium, to name a few. Together with our partners and the service user, we guide, counsel and seek solutions to problems while paving the way to a befitting job/training.

We also coach and stand by our service users even after they have gotten a job or started a training. This is done by the request of the service user and it includes contact with the service user and facilitating communications between the employer and the service user. We also get feedback from the employer and work on it with the service user and organise extra language lessons and other necessary competencies that are pertinent for the effective realization of the job.

Valorisation of competencies: service user Janet during a voluntary service in Cultureghem vzw

Mary Edna J Lamnteh, Job Consultant
FAAB vzw (
Federation of Anglophone Africans in Belgium)

*Bxl@work project is closely linked with the organization EVA bxl which is one of the partner organizations in the transnational EME project. Bxl@work and EVA's national project Culturally Sensitive Care Ambassodors (CSCA) work closely on reaching participants in Brussels. The writer Mary Edna J Lamnteh is also a member of the steering committee of CSCA and gives advice on the needs and realities of the job market.