What started as assistance from an IBM centennial year grant for a volunteer project with the social security department in Amsterdam has developed into a nonprofit organization in the Netherlands.
In 2011, Rosanna Nazir led a large group of IBM volunteers to build and deliver a program of education courses designed to help immigrants enhance their skills and improve their employability. Coming off their success, Rosanna worked with several volunteers to formally establish Stichting Vrouwen Aan Het Werk (VAHW), or the Foundation for Women at Work, to turn their project into an ongoing commitment.
Rosanna, an IBM professional development program manager, is now the chairwoman of VAHW—a non-profit which develops innovative projects to promote economic independence and self-reliance for women, young people and immigrants. In addition to a curriculum of general Information and Communications Technology (ICT) courses, the team is adding classes to enable women to develop skills precisely in the areas in which they will seek employment.
The World Smart College (WSC) was the original project with the social security department to guide immigrants in job readiness and confidence-building to seek employment in an unfamiliar culture—the project ran from November 2011 through June 2012 with more than 100 IBM volunteers helping. The first edition of WSC was successful—practically all the participants got an internship or later got jobs. The high success rate motivated Rosanna and others to build out the idea and create VAHW.
The second edition of WSC, to be called WSCTaal (“language”), as a program of VAHW, has received some funding from the department of education and immigration, and support from a local language school in Amsterdam. The program will hire two graduates from the original WSC to provide operational support for the 50 participants expected to join the program.
Program participants will receive guidance from volunteers, including those from IBM and other local businesses. The WSC has three main tracks: project management, ICT and event management—the team has made use of several IBM On Demand Community volunteer activity kits, including job readiness, project management and marketing basics.
VAHW has gained some recognition by the European Commission and been presented in Belgium, Ireland and Cyprus