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Work is an important factor in activating underprivileged groups. However, offering personalised work, tailored to the target group, is a big challenge. Often, it’s a matter of finding a balance between ensuring the social enterprise remains viable while also caring for the employees.
Weerwerk, the social enterprise associated with De Sleutel, targets people who are less well positioned on the job market. With branches in the Ghent, Antwerp and Roeselare regions, Weerwerk helps around 100 adults with addiction issues every year to find long-term work.
Workplace leader Mathieu De Bruyne: “It is important to have a sufficiently stable range of work. One of the customers we work with a lot is Metagenics, a leading name in nutritional supplements. We had our first chats back in June 2016. The mission of Metagenics is to help people in their pursuit of a healthier and happier life. Weerwerk’s vision: People, opportunities, growth. Work as methodology! Based on these two foundations, it did not take us much to join forces”. “Weerwerk packs the Metagenics nutritional supplements. It is striking that a company like that chooses to partner up with the social economy,” says Mathieu. Metagenics, registered in Ostend since 1989, is market leader in micronutrition support products for people of all ages. It is a fast-growing company that employs 260 people in Europe, 160 of them in Ostend. All activities are consolidated at the Ostend site. As well as the production of accompanying storage and shipping activities, it is also home to the head office, with R&D, administration, sales, marketing and customer service.
Mathieu: “Every time Rogier visits he asks for a soda water. We don’t normally have that here at Weerwerk. Now, when we know Rogier is coming, we make sure we have soda water. Rogier and his team are the people who hooked Weerwerk up with Metagenics”. He leads the team that closely monitors the operational process at Weerwerk and coaches us remotely. His team sets clear limits, gives us tips for “lean” working. His team also taught the Weerwek supervisors to work with visuals...
Mathieu: ”Metagenics is a company that takes the time to explain things to our employees on team days. Our people appreciate that hugely. A company of that size, global leader in micronutrition, is also an enterprise with a strong social engagement.”
Packaging these vitamins, as one of the permanent assignments, is a source of stability in the work. Mathieu: “With the people of the activating work floor we process 10.500.000 bags for Metagenics on an annual basis. This enabled us to expand in terms of employees in 2018. At the same time, we were able to grow within the methodical work. We now have clear parameters for determining when employees can handle the pace to be able to work in the regular packaging industry, say.”
Thanks to the partnership, we can offer operational activities but also logistics activities on the activating work floor. “We can give people a clear sense of working in a production unit based on the number of pallets completed,” says Mathieu.
In this assignment, Weerwerk acts as a fixed link in a larger chain. “We are connected with the regular economy and that has a greater impact than some people suppose. Metagenics is responsible for delivery and collection every week. This is done by a professional team under Mattijs. Metagenics picks up 10-15 pallets with packaged products every week. The people who do the transport always show deep respect for our employees. They make jokes. They work at a good tempo the whole time. Our people can really learn a lot from that. Together with Metagenics we create a concrete, realistic job goal, supported by evidence-based working, warmth and respect for people,” Mattieu says.