There are still too few young people who choose to work in technology, even though the jobs are there for the taking. The Eindhoven high-tech ecosystem Brainport Industries is working together with education and the regional business community to find a solution.
John Blankendaal, director of Brainport Industries, says: “There is a great need for well-trained people, not only with higher professional education and above but also from vocational schools. About 70 percent of the people who work in the manufacturing industry have intermediate vocational education. We therefore place the emphasis on craftsmanship and well-trained craftsmen and women.”
Attract, commit and retain technicians
Together with Summa College and companies from the region, Brainport Industries is working on the development of training courses that connect with practice. Blankendaal: “One of our programs has the theme ‘People‘. It is about attracting, committing and retaining well-trained staff.”
Everything that is thought up also has to be made, according to Blankendaal. The craftsmen and women you need for this have to be well trained: “Philips used to be the big trainer for people in technology. They rightly took a different direction but that also meant the end of their company schools,” says Blankendaal.
Brainport Industries College
Because there is a growing need for skilled workers, Brainport Industries has set up the Brainport Industries College (BIC). He explains: “This is how we give substance to the collaboration between industry and education. Among other things, we want to show that you are guaranteed a job if you opt for technology.”
According to Blankendaal, technical professions are still too often invisible. “With vocational training, people quickly think of hairdressers or a job in the manufacturing or automotive industry. Those sectors are also very important, of course, but the technicians who work in the machine factories should be more visible.” He emphasizes that the image of a messy and dirty factory is out of date: “The opposite is true. In modern factories, it is very clean and tidy.”
Together with Summa College, Brainport Industries has invested a lot in building a solid curriculum and a beautiful workshop at the BIC. “All facilities are there to offer those young people who choose to pursue technology a top education. They are certain to find a job in the manufacturing industry,” says Blankendaal.
Saartje Janssen, director of Technology, Process Technology, Construction, Electrical and Installation Technology at Summa College, adds: “We not only have the facilities at the BIC but also offer current and renewed training programs. A large number of companies have collaborated on this. An entirely new training program in the field of smart industry has even been developed.”
Janssen sees it as a positive signal that so many companies are cooperating: “It emphasizes the importance of joint training. Besides, this way we ensure that the training courses remain up-to-date and that the content is in line with the professional field.”
Janssen believes it is important that the entire region work together to find solutions to the shortage of well-trained professionals. Blankendaal agrees: “Everyone needs to understand that long-term investment in talent is required. This starts by seeing this talent as an apprentice and not as a work force. A constructive and sustainable policy in the recruitment and guidance of young people who opt for technology is of great importance. Even when the economy is a bit slow.”
The tide is turning
Blankendaal and Janssen note that the tide is turning. “Yes, we are also seeing an increasing awareness of this issue at other companies,” says Janssen. “They are increasingly realizing that it is no longer just a matter of whether they have enough people themselves. Suppliers or other business partners must also have enough people, otherwise the manufacturing companies will still have a problem. I’m curious to see how this will develop in the future. I do see opportunities to make better joint use of the labor potential.”
Blankendaal adds: “This collective decisiveness is badly needed. It actually creates fragmentation if companies set up their own schools. It is much better to sit down together with the education sector. Just like the BIC is doing with Summa.”
An example of an educational path that has emerged on this is the previously mentioned Technician Smart Industry program. “We also call smart industry the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0. Skills in this area are becoming increasingly important in business. The training therefore responds to the digitization and robotization currently taking place in factories,” says Blankendaal.
Dutch Technology Week (DTW) Talk 3D Printing
One such skill involves 3D metal printing, an additive manufacturing process in which metal powder is melted by lasers into a solid product. In a DTW Talk during Dutch Technology week, they’ll talk about what exactly this entails and what you can do with it. “There are many different production methods. 3D metal printing is one of them. To introduce students to the field and the technology needed for this, we have several printers at the BIC, such as plastic printers, metal printers and ceramic printers,” says Blankendaal.
More digital skills
The DTW Talk will also feature some examples of what is happening in the region in terms of additive manufacturing, of which 3D printing is a part. “There are two companies present who will explain what they are doing with this,” says Blankendaal. “There’s a lot of need for people who can machine a piece of metal well. Because more and more is going digital, the people who operate such a machine need more and more digital skills. This fits in seamlessly with the curriculum of the Smart Industry course.”
Appreciation for professionals
Other training programs in the field of metalworking have therefore also been given a new look. Janssen explains: “Not only do you have to be able to program the machines correctly, you also have to be able to make something yourself. That element of craftsmanship remains very important. Whether you choose sheet metal, welding, construction or machining, there is something for everyone.” She continues: “Fortunately, there is also a growing appreciation for this kind of craftsmanship. We realize that we can want all sorts of things but that they also have to be made. This appreciation is expressed, for example, through the Noordhof Prize, which puts professional talents from the Brainport region in the spotlight.”
Promoting technical education therefore remains as important as ever, according to Blankendaal and Janssen. “We want to show how fun and challenging it is. Within engineering, you’re always working on innovation, new possibilities and social challenges in the area of climate and health.
The solution to certain social problems really has to come from engineering. That is what makes working in this sector so enjoyable for both men and women. You can go in all directions,” says Blankendaal. “The DTW plays an important role in this. And at the BIC we actually have a DTW every week. You can come here 52 weeks a year to be amazed by technology and have a chat with the people walking around.”