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Traditional Dutch tiles raise funds to train refugees for renewable energy jobs

Last week, we featured The Switch, a Dutch startup that trains refugees for jobs in the renewable energy sector. The company is back in the news, this time with an intriguing piece of design: Tiles of the Sun.

Two hand-painted ceramic tiles depict a solar installer standing on a roof with a photovoltaic panel hoisted on one shoulder. Tiles of the Sun, developed with creative agency 72 and Sunny, builds on a rich tradition of tiles portraying Dutch tradespeople like blacksmiths, shipwrights and carpenters, whose handiwork helped shape the nation.

Crafted by artisans at the Harlinger Aardewerk en Tegelfabriek in the iconic blue-and-white Delft style, Tiles of the Sun pays homage to the skilled labor required for today's energy transition. By purchasing a tile for EUR 75 or more, buyers directly fund The Switch's training and certification programs for refugees looking to embark on green energy careers.

Traditional blue-and-white ceramic tiles showing an installer carrying a solar panel

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In November 2023, far-right populist Geert Wilders won the Netherlands' national elections after running a blatantly anti-asylum and anti-Islam campaign. The Switch, meanwhile, highlights the value refugees bring by upskilling them for a sector facing a severe labor shortage — the Netherlands is looking to fill around 50,000 job openings related to the energy transition.

Raising funds for the endeavor with a quintessentially Dutch piece of heritage symbolizes a merging of old and new residents, of historic craft and today's technology. One to be inspired by?