The “Welcome Center”, as its often known, has achieved significant milestones during its first years in operation
Translated by Thomas Ansell
All of the larger cities in the Northern Netherlands are steadily becoming more International. Anyone that walks through the centre of Groningen, Leeuwarden, Assen, or Emmen is likely to hear significantly more English or other languages spoken, especially amongst younger people.
“The North has begun to develop an International character, and we assume that this will continue to develop in the coming years”, says Michiel Kasteleijn, Business Manager at the IWCN. “This is a great development for the Northern Dutch economy, because at the moment lots of companies are finding it difficult to fill vacancies. It’s therefore great that more and more international students and graduates are coming to the North and to Northern companies. The companies themselves are really very happy that high-level International talent is coming to our region.”
The IWCN was started by a consortium of parties, which includes the provinces of Groningen, Friesland, and Drenthe; Gemeentes, companies, labour organisations; and the various knowledge institutions in the North.
It is a one-stop shop for all International people in the Northern three provinces, and has three general areas of service: formalities (including Gemeente registration and IND permits), information, and events (including both business and social events).
“There is so much that we have achieved in the last five years, and significant changes have occurred in the North. When we started the IWCN, we decided to set a target of helping around 500 International people per year. Now, each year, we provide permits to 2,000 people, and on top of that, we serve around 4,500 people with getting-started information and answers to their questions. And, we also have contact with over 230 businesses, who employ Internationals or want to. It’s really all got much bigger than we thought!”, says Kasteleijn.
There are around 10,000 ‘knowledge migrants’ in the North, and around 40 different start-ups run by International people. There are also more than 11,000 International students in the North. The IWCN has spent the last five years doing its best to help all of these people and groups.
The IWCN’s activities are broader than just that of an Expat Centre. One initiative, which the IWCN is a partner in is ‘Make it in the North’: a portal with business information, vacancies for International people, and some of the most detailed information about the Northern Dutch international business landscape available. Another project this is The Northern Times: a news portal and the first English-language newspaper in the North, and the Here & Now events directory that will soon be available in all three Northern provinces.
“We have broken significant ground in five years. But we think that this is only just the beginning”, sums up Kasteleijn.