Lowie Verbeek wants to be an entrepreneur, work with people, and invent new things. He does exactly those three things at BioVerbeek with the Work & Grow pathway he and the company set up themselves. The Limburg organic farmer offers young adults the chance to find out whether and how they would like to work in the horticultural field. And should it turn out that their heart lies elsewhere, that's no problem either.
Lowie (right) teaches a participant in the Work & Grow program
Last autumn, the first young adult started the program. "Back then, it was still a hectic time at the end of the season," Lowie says in December. "By mutual agreement, we started anyway, even though the greenhouse was empty for a while. When things calmed down a bit, we revisited where the first participant would all like to look around our company and what he would like to learn."
In the first week of January, the first plants went back into the ground at the grower's premises. A total of six young adults could join the program from then on. "We don't have more places because we do want to keep the guidance and its quality," he says.
With Work & Grow, BioVerbeek is also deliberately targeting those people who sometimes don't quite fit into the often somewhat theoretical education system. "I myself didn't feel quite at home in that either. While learning and working, I eventually discovered for myself what I like. I want others to experience that too." Getting a certificate is not the be-all and end-all, according to Lowie, but if a participant wants it, the growers are open to helping with that.
Those who sign up start with a no-obligation introductory meeting. Then the process begins, which partly consists of 'just' working alongside others, in the case of the grower of organic greenhouse vegetables, for example, harvesting and packaging greenhouse vegetables, and partly of observing. In both cases, payment is the same. "We pay in this route not as an internship, but really as a job. By paying equally for both assisting and cooperating, we want to encourage people to look beyond what they were doing before. In this way, we encourage young adults to step into the greenhouse and dive into the deep end."
Participants in the program get to know various sides of the business
Finding a place
Periodic evaluations take place during the program. Participants are supervised by one supervisor. "After the first phase in the evaluation, we look at which places, besides helping with packaging, crop work, and harvesting, participants would like to look at more. This could also be in (financial) administration or in the technical maintenance team, for example. Our goal is to let people discover where their heart lies. Then, if it eventually turns out that someone likes managing schoolchildren so much that he or she wants to be in front of the classroom, in education, that is also a great outcome."
The ultimate goal for the growers is that people want to keep working at BioVerbeek. "We do our utmost to look for the right place for participants within our company. We do have to be honest that if someone's preferred position does not become vacant in the foreseeable future, they will be told." Not everyone can become a director.
BioVerbeek also made two videos about the Work & Grow route. The second video can be seen here.