“Hi, I’m looking for a graduation internship,” says someone in between cutting tomatoes. “Can you help me with this?” Others are more hesitant and concentrate more on preparing the meals. Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo is the stage for Tomorrow’s Talent Evening is all about connecting. Students of the HAS University of Venlo, Fontys and Maastricht University are introduced to various companies in the food industry. Divided into mixed groups, students and entrepreneurs go through the programme; cooking workshops, pitch training and a lecture.

This story is part of a series of articles about the Dutch Agri Food Week. Read more here.

Most students come mainly to expand their network or are curious about the latest food trends. Some alumni hope to find a job. Rob Weijers is one of them. He completed his study Health Food and Innovation Management at Maastricht University in mid-August: “This is a helpful tool to get in touch with companies and find out whether there is an interesting job in it for me.” Whether his dream job has already passed by? Weijers tastes a bite of beet salad he has prepared himself, swallows it and shakes his head: “No, I didn’t know beforehand which parties would be present. I would have liked to know now it’ s a bit of a lucky bet, but it’s good for my network, we’ll say.”

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    The aim of Tomorrow’s Talent is, among other things, to bond talent to the region. According to Saskia Goetgeluk, the director of Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo they will be able to do so by showing what is happening in the region. “Companies have to increase their efforts to attract talent, also because students don’t know enough about the many strong companies here,” explains Goetgeluk. By bringing companies and students into contact with each other in an accessible way, Goetgeluk hopes for ‘nice matches that keep talent in the region’. She believes that companies can learn from students: “They often bring along a perspective that leads entrepreneurs to a different insight. Today there is plenty of room for that, the atmosphere is much more informal than, for example, a job interview.”

    Daniel Hermans, who is in his first year of Food Innovation at the HAS University of Applied Sciences in Venlo, is looking for possible internships for next year. “This is a fun interactive way to do that. Just now I spoke to a manager of Vitacress, that sounds like something. But Scelta seems like a nice company too.” Scelta Mushrooms is one of the companies that give a cooking workshop. Scelta makes anything you can think of out of mushrooms; from flavour enhancers to burgers and brownies. And their latest product: mushrooms that are full of vitamin D. “There’s a substance in mushrooms; ergosterol”, explains Sophie Tullemans of the Venlo company while decorating a pizza bottom – not made out of mushrooms – with a big chunk of tomato sauce. “If this ergosterol comes into contact with UV radiation, it is converted into vitamin D. In our skin, this works in the same way.” Scelta has no internships or vacancies to offer, but they want to tell the story of innovation in nutrition. Tullemans: “Here we address a young new audience. And of course, we are always open to good ideas.”

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    A little further away Cosimo Cisternino from Bari, Italy, is baking a mushroom burger. With his best chef-like imitation he waves the scent of the burger into his nose. Then he puts a thumb in the air. Approved. He is not a cook, but he is interested in food. “I have a technical background that I want to combine with food innovation. To do so, I study at Maastricht University. I always wanted to study abroad and the Netherlands is known as an innovative country. Companies are always looking to the future, that appeals to me. That’s why I came here. Today is a great opportunity to see with my own eyes how these companies work. I’m not in a hurry, my studies will take another two years.”

    Cooking makes you hungry and at the stroke of half past six, the first groups find a place at the table to taste their self-prepared food. Unlike Scelta, Rene Luijten of the network organisation Morgen is actively looking for talent: “to link them for an internship or work assignment.” Luijten explains to a German student how he works: “The food sector is relatively closed, it is good to look outside your own sector. We can help with that because our network is broader than food alone. Unexpected encounters like this can lead to great things.”

    There is also the Estonian Marianne Kosenkranius, she is studying at Maastricht University and is looking for interesting speakers for the International study association BEET: “Leading companies from the industry that can be beneficial for students. And to close the gap between business and university.” Later on, when everyone is treated to ice cream and the first beers pop open gently, Kosenkranius exchanges information with Maikel Borm of Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo. “Here they have a lot of knowledge of the industry, hopefully, it will bring something”, says Kosenkranius on her way to the exit.

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    Author profile picture Milan Lenters is a writer and editor. Through IO, he got to know his native city Eindhoven in a different way and sometimes looks with amazement at the many stories that lie ahead.