Curia advises on the first Social Impact Bond in Flanders

Curia advises on the first Social Impact Bond in Flanders. Social Impact Bonds are a new, innovative way of tackling social problems with money provided by private investors. For the first Flemish Social Impact Bond, 370 young people without qualifications are being trained in Antwerp as web developers, which is a shortage occupation, in a collaboration between Impact Capital, BeCode and VDAB

Piet Colruyt (49) is the nephew of Jef Colruyt, the general manager and co-owner of the largest supermarket chain in Belgium. Piet's company Impact Capital invests in projects that solve social problems.

His latest investment is a first for Flanders. Through a so-called Social Impact Bond, he has been appointed by the Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB) to reduce youth unemployment in the city of Antwerp. This youth unemployment is a major problem. A staggering 24% of young people under the age of 25 in the city of Antwerp are unemployed as against 'only' 14% for the whole of Flanders.

Over the next five years, Piet Colruyt is earmarking EUR 1 million to train 270 unemployed young people with no qualifications from Antwerp so they can become computer scientists. This is one of the main shortage occupations in Flanders. The course lasts nine months and includes a two-month traineeship. The lessons are held at The Beacon building in the Sint-Pietersvliet neighbourhood in Antwerp.

The first nine young people started their training in December. "I want to do something about the suffering in society," says Piet Colruyt. "Not all major social problems need to be addressed by the government. If this project works, I will also benefit. So it's a win-win situation for everyone."

Colruyt: a good return on its investment

Piet Colruyt's company is paying for the IT training of these young people entirely out of his own pocket. His company is refunded the costs – plus a return on the investment – only if the young people find a job after their training. This return varies from 2% to 9%. The return depends on how sustainable the young person's job is (permanent contract or not) and how vulnerable his or her profile was.

Colruyt is financing the scheme but he has no intention to teach. He leaves that job to the company BeCode, which will train these young students with the money provided by Colruyt's company. "We have already trained 200 young people and other unemployed people with a difficult profile to become computer scientists in Brussels," says Karen Boers, Managing Director of BeCode. "80% of them find a permanent job after the course."

This is the first time that BeCode will train unemployed young people in Flanders. "We are not interested in the background of these young people. They do not require a certificate or prior knowledge to start this training," says Karen Boers. "These youngsters will not only learn how to build websites but also create smartphone applications and develop their so-called 'soft skills', such as communicating and promoting themselves to others.

"Government is a barrier"

Fons Leroy, Managing Director of VDAB, emphasises that his organisation also continues to offer training for unemployed young people: "For many young people, knocking on the door of a government organisation such as VDAB is a very high barrier. That's why we are launching this new initiative."

Flemish Minister of Work Philippe Muyters (N-VA) is considering this as a pilot project. "If we achieve good results with this project, we can extend this approach to training for other shortage occupations and to other cities," says Muyters.