Yvonne van Hest, © Bram Saeys
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As Program Director at Brainport Development, Yvonne van Hest is responsible for the PEOPLE domain. In the coming period, she will be writing a number of columns for Innovation Origins on regional developments and backgrounds in education and the labour market.

After persistent complaints from my eldest son (14) that his mother really is working many more hours than the intended full-time working week of 40 hours, a friend of his asked me: “What exactly are you doing at your job?” “I am the Education & Labour Market Programme Manager,” I replied. “At Brainport Development, the economic development company for Brainport Eindhoven, our region.”

As soon as I gave my answer, I thought, “Of course he doesn’t understand that.” Indeed, who would understand? So I made a new attempt: “I work together with my colleagues in my team to ensure that the people in our region and in the Netherlands can be and remain prosperous. By working together to ensure that you receive the very best education, that companies always have and can find the best staff to continue to grow, and that as few people as possible are or become unemployed.”

“Okay,” he said, “That sounds quite important.” And they were gone, outside, to throw a ball.

And he is right, that is quite important. And fortunately, we all find that in our region. Today we are presenting our Brainport Talent & Skills Agreement, an agreement that we have written at Brainport Development, for and together with important stakeholders in our region, for innovations in education and the labour market. More than 200 decision makers in the business community, education and within governments have signed this agreement in recent weeks. Because they all see the urgency.

To name but a few numbers: economic growth in Brainport Eindhoven was the highest in the Netherlands in 2017, at 3.9%, and unemployment is expected to fall below 3.5% this year. This year we are expecting no less than 7,000 vacancies in technology & IT in our region alone. Not only at large companies, but certainly also at of SMEs.

Someone said to me last week: ‘Why have another agreement? So much is already happening in the Brainport region. You have written technology pacts, a national action agenda and you are already working very well together in that triple helix…”

Let that be precisely the reasons for this agreement.

The deal contains seven agreements. By means of these agreements, we are giving concrete effect to the four substantive main lines for Education & Labour Market from the Brainport National Action Agenda:
1. Increasing the availability of tech & IT talent by doubling the number of graduates in MBO, HBO and WO in tech & IT and by attracting and retaining international knowledge workers;
2. Continuously ensuring educational innovation – both in primary and secondary education and in MBO, HBO, and WO – by offering the right skills to pupils and students, by ‘lifelong development’ of teachers and by addressing teacher shortages;
3. Offering more ‘hybrid learning environments’: physical places where technological education and business train students and employees together and create new joint developments – the optimal connection between education and the labour market;
4. Life-long development: responding to the question of how to make ‘lifelong development’ possible and accessible to everyone.

And for the sake of clarity: these four lines are not separated from each other. We all agree that we need to turn ‘all the buttons at once’. One cannot do without the other. There is a great need to scale up our activities in the field of education and the labour market and to tackle them even better together. And not only on an executive level, but also visionary. We have to work continuously on the question of what we have to do and what we can do to ensure that the system functions as smoothly and as evenly as possible.

With the Brainport Talent & Skills Agreement, we are making the cooperation between business, education, government and the social partners even stronger, because our stakeholders make a personal promise and give their commitment. And above all, I am sincerely proud that the 200 signatories themselves have insisted on the following text: “As triple helix organisations and (social) partners, we hold each other accountable for implementing and complying with these agreements“.

We are going to make sure that they do exactly so; that the agreement does not become an empty phrase. As far as I am concerned, Brainport Development will have a more specific, coordinating and communicative role to play in ensuring that all the fine initiatives, activities and projects in the region know of each other that they exist and can be better coordinated where possible. At the start and as well in the execution.

If my son or one of his friends would read this, he would probably not understand half of it. And then I would say to them: “More than 200 school and business directors and mayors have promised to make sure that you get the best education and can always continue to learn until you retire.”

“Quite important,” he would probably say. And that’s what it is!

The Brainport Talent & Skills Agreement can be found here (Dutch).