Competition for employees is fierce, and like the rest of the country, companies in the northern Netherlands are struggling to find enough qualified graduates for IT positions and other sectors. At the International Welcome Center North, Maartje de Jonge is working hard to show northern businesses how international graduates from regional academic institutions are an untapped resource.
Many internationals students who graduate from research and applied sciences institutions in Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland are eager to stick around. As of 2017, VSNU reports that there were 48,507 international students enrolled at Dutch research universities, which constituted about 18 percent of the total student population. Nuffic found that four out of ten international students remain in the Netherlands for at least five years after graduation.
And there are plenty of jobs out there, but finding them is the trick for international graduates. In a report on trends in the Netherlands, the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics stated that the number of open positions has grown dramatically in recent years: there were 207,000 jobs added to the Dutch economy in 2017, which is a 27 percent increase since the 1990s.
According to werk.nl, a website operated by the Dutch unemployment benefits agency UWV, craftspeople and tech professionals are in especially high demand. Applied sciences academic programmes that are highly sought after on the labour market are mechanical engineering and electronics, nursing, embedded systems engineering, dental hygiene and computer engineering.
In an interview with the Groninger Internet Courant, Maartje de Jonge, the relations manager at the International Welcome Center North, describes how one of her main priorities is bringing employers and talented international graduates together through presentations at universities and companies. De Jonge also contributes to the Top Dutch Talent economic initiative, which aims to stimulate economic growth in the region by capitalising on the opportunities and international talent in the region. (Editor’s note: The Northern Times is one of several Top Dutch Talent projects.)
The International Welcome Center North, which opened its doors in 2014 at the municipal building on the Gedempte Zuiderdiep, works with professionals and students coming to the region from abroad and helps process legal documentation for international newcomers. De Jonge joined IWCN in the autumn of 2017. “I really love the work I’m doing now. I can see how desperately companies in the north are in need of qualified staff and just how many talented international graduates there are who would love to get to work here. It’s a joy to bring the supply and demand sides together”, she says.
The number of unfilled vacancies is exacerbated in the northern Netherlands by an ageing working population and a plateauing birth rate. “When I hear companies saying that it’s difficult to fill certain positions, I encourage them to look at the international talent pool in the region”, De Jonge says. “Businesses can use IWCN’s services to find qualified candidates. We have so much in-house knowledge, and we can take the task of finding talent off the hands of any given company’s HR department by helping ensure that internationals feel at home.”