gerben visser

Gerben Visser, Fenelab Ambassadeur voor het leven

Following the general members’ meeting on 27 November, Gerben Visser – director of Kalibra (part of ENGIE) – said farewell as a board member and to his PR duties. Karen Schellens, environmental account manager at Eurofins Netherlands will be picking up the baton. A double interview follows.

The 60-year-old Visser started as a member of the PR committee in 2014. When taking office, he encountered a motivated, dedicated group of people at Fenelab, who are 100% committed to the branch organisation. Not to mention, all members play an important role in society. Even though to many outsiders the world of certification and calibration may sound bureaucratic and uninteresting, Visser believes it is an exciting and innovative sector. “Whether it concerns validation of operating rooms, nitrogen and PFAS measurements, food safety, and doping control, our members play an essential role in society. The importance of accredited measurements that clients can blindly rely on has often been ignored. In my role, I wanted to highlight this even more. That’s why I joined the PR committee.”

IMPORTANT CONTACTS

Together with the members of the committee, Visser has significantly increased the social visibility and relevance of Fenelab. Important relationships have been established with large companies and organisations, for example. Today Fenelab is more often present at meetings with relevant stakeholders, such as the Dutch Accreditation Council, ministries, and knowledge institutes. In addition, members are informed via a newsletter about relevant developments within and outside the branch organisation. Significant work has also been done to increase the membership base. And with great success, because Fenelab now represents more than 80 percent of the accredited laboratories and calibration and inspection institutions in the Netherlands, which together employ around 5,000 highly skilled people. Together they account for 5.5 billion euros in revenues. “In short: we are a significant player in the Dutch business world.

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OUTSIDE WORLD

In recent years, Visser has seen Fenelab transform from an internal to a more outward-looking organisation. For example, this year Fenelab issued a press release in response to the PFAS crisis. This press release emphasised that the initially limited capacity of laboratories was certainly not the reason for postponement or possibly even cancellation of infrastructure works. Unfortunately, this was initially the tone of many reports in the press. “A good move”, explains Visser. “I hope that in the future the media will contact Fenelab more easily for well-founded comments on current social discussions in which our members play an active part.” Fenelab was also important in defining the set of PFAS compounds to be investigated, on the basis of which the current set of 30 was established.

AMBASSADOR

During the last board meeting, Visser was appointed Fenebar ambassador for life. “I’m extremely honoured that I was not only appointed as a board member, but now also as an ambassador. However, the time has come to make way for young blood. In Karen Schellens I have found an excellent successor. She speaks the language of a new generation. Not to mention, she has plenty of experience with Fenelab. Whether I have any tips for her? I recommend contributing towards a universal Fenelab culture. Unfortunately, this can be particularly difficult given the different interests in certain dossiers. Take the fipronil crisis, for instance.”

As the government is focusing more and more on enforcement, Visser also sees opportunities for accredited laboratories in the field of supervision. “Kalibra is accredited worldwide, including ISO 17020 and 17025. Every day we have more than 90 employees on the road who perform very complex measurements. Why couldn’t these people measure the speed of cars, for instance, so that the police can use these measurements to determine whether or not they should issue fines?”

EDUCATION AND LABOUR COMMITTEE

Time for a closer acquaintance with his successor. After her studies in Molecular Sciences (a combination of chemistry and biology), 31-year-old Karen Schellens spent five years in Nijmegen at a specialist employment agency in the laboratory sector. “I enjoyed working with candidates and clients. We were looking for lab technicians, researchers, and quality managers for all kinds of companies. That’s how I discovered my passion for customer contact and maintaining relationships.”

Schellens has been working as an environmental account manager at Eurofins Netherlands for a year and a half now. “We conduct soil and water surveys for environmental consultancy and engineering firms. Thanks to PFAS we’ve had some busy times, indeed!”

Schellens is no stranger to Fenelab. For example, through her previous employer she was active in the Education Committee for a number of years. “An important committee where we hold meetings with vocational and higher professional education about the link between laboratory education and practical application. These went very well. “Throughout this process, I became closely familiar with Fenelab’s way of working. An excellent organisation to meet colleagues from comparable companies in an informal way and to discuss common topics.”

FUTURE PLANS

Visser approached Schellens during the last general meeting to succeed him in the PR committee. In the coming years, the members of the committee want to make the added value of Fenelab membership even more apparent for both current and future members. “We also want to recruit more donors in order to have access to more resources that allow us to support our members. In 2020 we will be organising another one of our Inspiration Days.”

Schellens emphasises that Fenelab and its members should be proud of their activities for society. “Every day we are all busy creating a healthy and safe living environment.”

Despite her busy working life, she still has enough time for one of her other passions: Scouting. “I’ve been active in the organisation ever since I was a child. I’m now the head of a group of 32 girls and I also train new managers for the Central Netherlands Scouting Organisation. Contributing to youth development; I absolutely love it!”