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Rotterdam-based businesses embrace language training | Employer language courses

Placed by José Scholte, ambassador EPALE


Some of us have a lot of difficulty reading and writing. This can have a negative impact on our work. In order to address this issue, some companies are offering language courses and making sure to use plain language themselves.


Family-owned business Verstegen Spices & Sauces is a good example. The Rotterdam-based herb and spice wholesaler organises language classes for its staff members. Michel Driessen (CEO): 'We produce freeze-dried Italian herbs, pickling spices, low-sodium diet salts..., our staff need to know what the product descriptions mean and understand how to process and package the herbs and spices. Although it takes effort to improve your reading and writing skills, you really need them to do your job well. Michel Driessen answers five questions on the importance of language on the shop floor.

'You can't function on the shop floor without language skills; the ability to read and write is crucial in terms of safety, accuracy and productivity.'Michel Driessen -Verstegen CEO/owner


1. Why are language classes so important?

'I believe we all have talents, but I'm also aware some people never get the opportunity to let them shine through. That's a real shame. We offer practice-based language courses so that staff can immediately apply what they learn at work. Participants also have less difficulty working with computers after finishing the course.'

2. For whom are the language classes intended?

'Some people have difficulty admitting they're struggling with the Dutch language. Most of our participants are involved in producing herbs, spices or packaging materials, or employed at the warehouse. Office staff generally spend a lot more time reading and writing and don't tend to have that many issues with language.

3. So how are the language classes structured?

We split participants up into three groups on the basis of their level of competence. The aim is to help them reach Upper secondary vocational education level 2. The lessons and courses centre around reading, writing, listening and communicating on the shop floor. Our staff take four hours of weekly classes over a period of fourteen weeks, and spend a lot of time practising. The lessons are free for staff members, and take place partly during work hours and partly outside of work hours.'

4. So what do staff members think of the classes?

'One participant recently told us he's really glad he can apply for a DigiD now. Someone else explained how happy she is to be able to email and google things. Another participant recently did language homework with his daughter for the first time. That sort of thing is obviously wonderful to hear', Michel explains.

5. Do you have any tips for other companies interested in organising language courses?

Just get started. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't as you go along. Make sure to announce the lessons well in advance so staff can think it over and even contribute to the course content. You don't have to do everything on your own. We have close ties with the Rotterdam Library and municipality, with whom we develop effective lessons.


Rotterdam-based businesses embrace language training

Interested in the Language with stars programme?

  • Contact the municipality of Rotterdam at or Stichting Lezen & Schrijven at
  • However, you can also engage with language in other ways. For example, employers can join the Employer Language Alliance (Taalakkoord Werkgevers). The Alliance helps employers seeking to reduce the stigma around low literacy and offer language training for their staff. For more information, visit the learning and working (leren en werken) website.
  • The nationwide Language counts (Tel mee met taal) grant programme offers financial support for organisations and businesses working to reduce and prevent low literacy.


More information

GeenPunt, Rotterdam's very own language glossy, features articles on the importance and joy of language. The third issue of GeenPunt (pdf) features the full interview with Michel Driessen on the importance of language classes. The magazine is also available at libraries, community centres (Huizen van de Wijk), VraagWijzer helpdesks and Youth and Family Centres.Administrators, municipal officials and partners are working together to improve the city of Rotterdam, both now and in the future. For more information, see Opportunities for Rotterdam residents.


Source->> Gemeente Rotterdam

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