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What does it mean to make it in the north? Is it as simple as starting your own business or finding a job, or does it mean feeling truly accepted and supported in your professional and personal endeavours? There are thousands of internationals living in Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland, many of whom came to the region for their careers. But what are the companies and institutions that brought them here in the first place? On the 11th of July, the Make it in the North project will be launching a new professional platform to bring together talented internationals and internationally-minded companies in the region.
I sat down with Michiel Kasteleijn from the International Welcome Centre North and Philippe Hondelink, the district secretary for Koninklijk Metaalunie to talk about what the Make it in the North project is all about, what the new platform aims to achieve and the unique challenges and opportunities facing foreign professionals in the north.
Editorial note: The Northern Times is part of the wider Make it in the North initiative.
Michiel Kasteleijn from the International Welcome Centre North
What is Make it in the North?
Michiel Kasteleijn: Well I think it started three years ago and then we brought companies and governmental organizations and talent together and just asked them, what are we missing here in the north? And in the end, we had a lot of discussions about different topics where were should better or what we should do, and most were of course about information about connecting and about inclusion. But in the end, they were looking for jobs, they were looking for companies, they were looking for opportunities, they were looking for news. They were looking for what’s happening here. I summarize it [with foreign] talent just standing there, and he just doesn’t know where he is or she is and think about, OK if I want to have an opportunity in the future after studying here in the north or coming to the north with my partner or starting my piece or postdoc here on and off then my opportunities lie somewhere else, because there’s nothing to do here and we can’t go anywhere and no companies where we could try to find vacancies. And we also have no other opportunities here. So if we’re looking for something, we have to go somewhere else to west or maybe other countries. And of course this is not true. The only thing we did a lot of things wrong in this. We were forgetting to inform people and to try to connect them to this region. So that’s what we’re trying to do now.
What makes the Make it in the Norths jobs platform special?
Kasteleijn: We want to engage people to the Northern Netherlands. if you want to engage people, you also want to connect things together and create awareness. And if you’re not organizing it by yourself and within your own region, it’s very hard to create awareness, not only with the talent for all the possibilities there are, but also for the companies to find all the opportunities they have within the Northern Netherlands. We found it to be very important to keep and get this in the north and also let it be made by people in the people and companies and talent in the north. And that’s why we set this up and I think this is also a good opportunity for the smaller SMEs (small to medium enterprises) who are out there and have difficulty to find maybe their I.T. technical, metal, industrial, life sciences, whatever kind of job, and for people and talent who are looking for their companies to have an opportunity which is already present in the north. And we have the idea that there might be about 25,000 people being able to go into the job market in the Northern Netherlands, because they are already here looking for jobs or they have the opportunity to go to another job. And if we don’t reach out to them, we won’t be able to keep them here and also create this possibility and opportunity for the company. So we want to help these smaller SMEs to rethink their way of getting their human capital in their organization.
What resources are out there for internationals to start their own business
Kasteleijn: There are maps where you can just zoom in to where [companies] are and you can filter them on the different sectors, there is sector information where you can find all the cool sectors there are, which kind of sectors there are, where are they, what are they doing, what kind of companies are in it. We are starting with a big career event on the 11th of July. And that’s also the start of a part of career events, for example if you as a talent or even as a company looking for which career event should I be at and where can I go, where I can present my company or where can I present myself. We have loads of them, but we [weren’t] showing them. So this is also a place where we show them. So I think it’s a mixture – if you look at a normal vacancy site, it’s kind of one sided, and what we also don’t want to create is a platform where we have a lot of organizations trying to get out to talent that much, because we actually want [to ensure] that the talent is actually in charge. So of course companies place their vacancies, but talent can say if they are interested. It’s not that we want to have them reached out to directly, so they are overwhelmed by all the companies who are looking for them, especially if you’re looking at I.T. jobs or technical jobs. These people are just getting their profiles from LinkedIn just for the fact that they don’t want to be approached. And I understand, because you want to be in charge of your own life and your own opportunities. So of course we create possibilities also for companies, because they can show themselves, they can their vacancies up, they can also show themselves offline if they want to go to career events or other opportunities that are coming through this platform. For talent goes the same but they can go a little bit further, because they can connect to the companies who have the vacancies.
Philippe Hondelink, district secretary for Koninklijk Metaalunie
What is the Koninklijk Metaalunie?
Philippe Hondelink: It’s an employer’s association. You have the trade unions and on the other side you have the employer’s association. So we work for the employer side. We focus on companies active in the metal industry in the north. And the companies employ approximately 100 employees working in different sectors and sectors, such as machine and equipment construction, engineering, welding and construction work, yacht building, sheet metal working but also agricultural mechanization. So it’s very broad: everything made in metal is produced by our members.
Will it require a mentality change for companies in the metal industry in the north to hire internationals?
Hondelink: I think for some of them it will, but for others, they are already employing internationals. They’ve already seen the benefits and the possibilities, and we think that Make it in North and the new job portal which will be introduced shortly will be an opportunity for companies. But imagine if you have a small company and you are the owner and you employ 15 or 20 people, you have to organise all sorts of things yourself, because you don’t have a human resources department. You have to do it yourself, so you have to outsource to someone who is specialized in that. We need to take the employers by the hand and say, we have something special: Make it in the North, claim your spot, say you are open to internationals and post your vacancies, your internships, so you can get in contact with those internationals.
Has it historically been difficult to know which internationally-operating companies are based in the north?
Hondelink: There are international companies, Dutch companies working internationally, that have vacancies for internationals, but they have to be known. But it’s great that we have such a big group of internationals studying at the hogescholen and the university in the north. I think it’s a question of getting to know each other better, because if you don’t know each other and you don’t know as an international student here that there are such nice companies based here in the north in Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe and you don’t know it, then you tend to overlook it because they don’t boast about themselves. Now they have a very good opportunity with make it in north to promote themselves, to get in touch with the internationals and internationals to get in touch with these companies. That’s the advantage of make it in the north.