Caparis reinvents itself

Caparis reinvents itself - from sheltered employment to talent company

Defying prejudice about social work facilities, Caparis director Alex Bonnema is stepping out of the Calimero role. 'We have started thinking in reverse. In this time of labor shortages, companies may apply to us for talent, instead of the other way around. Caparis is a talent company that ensures that everyone in our society can do their bit. In that, we do good business and contribute in our own way to
innovation and sustainability.'

Caparis has had turbulent years and we are deliberately putting them to rest. At a time when all hands on deck are needed to sustainably change our world, this company is also looking to the future. Precisely because of the disappointing impact of the Participation Act and the prevailing prejudices, Caparis is keeping focus. 'We focus on the possibilities of the large group of people who would like to participate, but who, due to a distance from the labor market, need a longer or different path to flourish,' says Alex. 'We are talking about 1.2 million people in the Netherlands. Two thousand of them work in Friesland and they are certainly not twiddling their thumbs. They contribute to society, also from an economic perspective, and that should be seen.'

Serious business

Alex is realistic. Yes, someone does occasionally lean on a hoe in the landscaping business. And yes, the pace is structurally slow for some. But Caparis would not have serious customers and turn a 75 million turnover if employees were only moving sticks. 'We are not a day care,' he emphasizes. 'We perform work here where there is demand, from packing food and sorting mail to assembling bicycles. Our cleaning crew, nursery and technical department also meet a need. We invest in our people, machinery and plants, work on business cases, provide quarterly reports and do our best to make both customers and shareholders happy. Just like any other company.

Healthy returns

That Caparis would be an unfair competitor because of the added government money is much more nuanced, according to the director. In the past, social workplaces sometimes worked below cost price, but those days are over. That wouldn't do justice to the work our people do either. In the work Caparis takes on, we aim to match our talents, but also to achieve quality, sustainability and a healthy return. That's why we are selective about what we do. And just like any other company, we also have to keep developing and innovating. We sometimes lose work because customers automate. Then you have to explain to a group of concerned employees that it wasn't because of the quality of their work, but that machines can do it cheaper. And then start looking again for new jobs that fit their talent.'

Sustainability Factory

A good example of Caparis' proactive attitude is the plan to realize a sustainability factory. 'We won a wildcard from the Work Innovation Prize early this year to implement this idea,' Alex says. 'With this step we show that we have reinvented ourselves, that we are looking innovatively at our role in society and the economy. Our employees - who already assemble new solar panels - can also disassemble used ones just fine. The first generations of solar panels are coming to an end and we see opportunities for reusable raw materials and parts. By tapping into a new market, we are creating opportunities to combine social sustainability with contributing to climate goals. That is why we are going to convert an existing site into a sustainability factory that is fossil-free and CO2-neutral.'

Caparis reinvents itself - from sheltered employment to talent company

Community Money

'The fact remains that as a semi-public company with employees who are distanced from the labor market, we do business in a different way than the average SME. We are there because it is necessary; because in a society it is about the whole. A party like the NOM also uses community money to stimulate innovation and growth. At Caparis we do that on a different level and with a different goal, but that is no less valuable. Working towards a sustainable world encompasses more than economic growth. It is also about social growth, about civilization. Look, Caparis does not have to build the Lelyline, but even if we only turn in the screws: the point is that our employees can also do their bit. That we do it together, without people standing aside in society.'

Organizing Talent

'Because it will be your kid,' says Alex. 'Who can't keep up with the rest and still wants to join in. It's our responsibility to look at everyone's talent, however simple. If you discover that and help people put it to use, they will flourish. And if we organize it well at Caparis, we are not only socially significant, but also economically significant. With the talented people who move on to regular work, but also with the people who permanently need a sheltered work environment. They too deliver. And our customers expect the same. Parties like Accell, Peijnenburg and PostNL not only choose Caparis because they want to do social business, they also expect appropriate quality. We offer that and our employees are rightly proud of it.'

Michiel Harmsen of Accell Group: 'The result must be good, that is paramount'

The Heerenveen locations of Accell Group - European manufacturer of bicycles, bicycle parts and accessories - have been doing business with Caparis for more than twenty years. 'To great satisfaction,' says group manufacturing director Michiel Harmsen. 'They make a complete line of wheels for Koga, we hire talents from Caparis who work here in various departments - sometimes with adjustments - and there is a group that puts together packages of parts for us at the sheltered workplace at Caparis, among other things. Quality is never an issue - the result just has to be good, that's paramount. The employees themselves also want to do good work. They are highly motivated and proud of what they do. The prices at Caparis are in line with the market, although the costs halve if the pace is half as much, so that we can then hire two colleagues who do what is needed together.'

MAX Mobile wants to build sustainable partnership with Caparis

The inventors of MAX Mobile - vehicle for people with mobility impairments - are moving production from Belgium to Friesland. Intended production partner is Caparis. 'We would like to attach a social label to our vehicle,' say Paul van Koppen, who is setting up production in Heerenveen from Froom Automotive. 'We believe in: what you give, you also get back. Of course we pay attention to quality and costs, which is why it's great that we have open calculation with Caparis. We are in a phase of fine-tuning with each other: what can it cost and who can do what? But also: what is the growth perspective, both for the production of our MAX Mobile and for the Caparis employees, so that they get the chance to learn. By producing locally, we save on logistics and gain space for building a sustainable partnership with Caparis.'

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