A job: the beginning of a longer path

I recently spoke to Mustafa and Tanya. Mustafa, a talented architect from Sudan, lives in Leiden and found his way through the Arcadis Talent Academy. Tanya, director of mobility at Arcadis, has been involved in the collaboration with Refugee Talent Hub for years and uses her knowledge and experience to help talents like Mustafa.

Mustafa heard about Refugee Talent Hub events through a friend. He signed up and signed up for various activities. “When I heard about Arcadis' program, I doubted whether I would belong there. But I decided to sign up anyway. During the job interview it became clear to me that this was an opportunity to be productive again and I hoped to participate in the Talent Academy.”

Talent Academy

Arcadis' Talent Academy is a six-month program with a paid job as the goal. The program offers professionals with a refugee background the opportunity to gain experience within the Arcadis work environment. There is a strong emphasis on experiential learning, with participants actively involved in real projects. In addition, participants receive Dutch language training and they get to work on their soft skills.

Mustafa was selected and started in the summer of 2023. “In the beginning I didn't know exactly what to expect. To my surprise, I immediately became part of the team. I ended up in a professional environment where I could get started right away. That was very nice for me, it gives you satisfaction.”

Tanya nods: “The whole idea is to get people to participate in projects right away, because that way they learn how Arcadis works, how customers think and what the working method is. Arcadis is flexible: you are given the space to find your own work. That is not necessarily different for someone with a Dutch background or a professional who was born somewhere else.”


This method can be quite challenging, as Mustafa also noticed. He struggled with the Dutch work culture and language. “It is difficult to communicate well at a detailed level. In addition, the Dutch work culture is very different from what I was used to.” Time management and efficient working were themes that Mustafa had to get used to. Gradually he learned to manage his time better and started to find his niche. And the organization plays a major role in this, Mustafa explains: “The great thing at Arcadis is that you get the space to discover what suits you, so you can find your place.”

The beginning of a longer road

A real 'Arcadian' who radiates as if he has been doing nothing else for years, that is how Mustafa comes across during this conversation. He is now working there as a Junior Architect. Despite this success story, it also becomes clear in our conversation that this is only the beginning of a longer road. “I'm working now, but I would also like to build a social life with acquaintances and friends. But the experience of being a refugee is simply traumatic, I notice that it takes time to make the step to become an integrated person.”

Mustafa has a clear vision of his future: “I hope to still be at Arcadis in a few years. I hope for more responsibility by then and I see myself speaking 100% Dutch. I also hope for a more active social life. Then I want to give back: help other refugees or be of value in some other way.”

Open the doors

Arcadis has been committed to utilizing the labor potential of newcomers for years. Tanya explains how Arcadis does this: “For us, this simply means opening doors for individuals with the right skills and capabilities. After all, there are countless people with valuable knowledge and experience who can strengthen our company.” According to Tanya, it is necessary for employers to change the way they think about people with a refugee background. “Let's all enjoy what they have to offer. It is a missed opportunity if we do not utilize these talents.”

That is not always easy, Tanya admits: “It brings challenges: not only for new employees, but also for Dutch colleagues: how can we ensure that we get the potential out of our new employees with a refugee background? A colleague and I recently had a conversation about this. We realize that when refugees come to the Netherlands, we cannot only expect them to adapt. We also have to adapt: ​​as employers, employees and as a receiving society.”

Tell a different story

Tanya still sees many opportunities for the future. “We are very happy with the steps we are making, but we also realize that we can do more. Because the effect of the Talent Academy is great: it is good for newcomers in the Netherlands, for us as a company and ultimately the entire society benefits from it. That story is not told enough at the moment and I hope we can change that.”