Future-oriented tech education at work in practice

To introduce TOMAS in Flevoland, the talent development platform joined forces with MBO College Almere, the regional tech educator with a new vision of education. This way, the participants at the TOMAS CONNECT #5 event didn't just engage in a conversation about talent development, but also witnessed talent at work. That was inspirational.

“We call our education ‘future-oriented tech education.’ Which is not: going to the classroom, following a schedule and learning from books,” says Mirte Smeenk, project leader at MBO College Almere. “Our vision consists of three pillars: to each student their own path, intensive guidance and working together with the business community to format the education.”

This attracts a diverse group of students: “We have full-time and part-time students. It is also possible to enroll here with a STAP budget (Incentive for improvement of labour market position, STimulans ArbeidsmarktPositie, in Dutch). College graduates from Windesheim University come here, as do people distanced from the labour market. All are welcome. In terms of age, it ranges from 16 to 62, and girls can also be found in our engineering department.”

“I am very excited about the way we work here,” Mirte concludes. “I really want every student to find a way to develop in every possible way, and as an educator we try to give tools and format to that.”

Local talent initiatives

TOMAS CONNECT is an interactive event, where all participants have the opportunity to contribute. Community manager Björn Schouten: “TOMAS was born from the desire to bring together the many talent initiatives in the region on one platform. The overview is there now, but we also need to get to know each other. We do that through these events, but also by talking to different parties. Above all, we want to start looking at problems together. We all face the same challenges, which we can only solve together.”

Four local talent initiatives introduce themselves:


The Lelytalent project focuses primarily on young people from the Entree courses and level 2 mbo courses at MBO College Lelystad. “We are almost 5 years in and have managed to create a hugely valuable partnership with the business community,” says Carlijn Pastoor. Erwin van der Laan continues: “There is a huge demand for technical talent from the business community. That’s why we have completely redesigned education. We go outside the school to a company. Specialisms can be found in the real world – not in school. And that’s what we try to teach our students. That doesn’t just happen, we need talent coaches for that.”

Stichting Werkwijzer naar Werk | Amsterdam Economic BoardStichting Werkwijzer naar Werk

Clarence Dosoe, director of Stichting Werkwijzer naar Werk, is committed to creating equality in the job market and promoting diversity and inclusion. “We outreach to people at a distance from the labour market, who may not speak the language and are hard to reach. We work with so far 86 key people, local residents who are themselves unemployed and speak the language of the community. Who know how to activate someone to participate in the available pathways.” The foundation’s services are active and customised: “We look at what someone can do and introduce them to companies in our network. We’re committed to sustainability: we try to enforce that people can work for 6 months and at least 24 hours a week, so they can get out of welfare and start living again.”

ICT Tribe

Ivo Schrijvers presents ICT Tribe. “Our mission is to train and create more and better IT talent, both employed and unemployed, here in the Flevoland region. On the one hand to make social impact, but certainly also from an economic perspective to grow the companies in the region. Everything we do is in connection with relevant regional stakeholders along three pillars: discovery, training and matching. Together with TechGrounds, we want to get people interested in a job in IT. As far as we are concerned, training cannot be done without matching, so we also actively seek cooperation with the business community.”

Digilab Flevoland

Digilab Flevoland is a partnership between MBO College Almere, MBO College Lelystad, MBO ROC Friese Poort and HBO Windesheim Almere in which students get involved with digital issues at local small and medium-sized businesses. “Think of a website that needs to be revamped, marketing issues that are out there,” says project manager Carlijn Pastoor. “We focus mainly on small SMEs, because we see that they don’t always have the knowledge, expertise and time to get started with this. For students, it’s a great way to learn about the practice and grow as professionals. So far we have solved 260 issues, with which we also hope to contribute to matching companies and talent in the region.”

After the matchmaking round between the initiatives and other participants, TOMAS also presented three best practices:

Björn Schouten | TOMAS CONNECT 5 | Amsterdam Economic BoardNLwerktaanwerk

NLwerktaanwerk is a project of the employers’ organisations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland as part of the trajectory From work to work, as part of the crisis and recovery measures. Like TOMAS, the project is committed to addressing labour market mismatch. Project director Bernadet van Veldhuizen: “We are committed to talking to employers, picking up successful initiatives, giving them a stage and inspiring them in this way. This is a huge job nationally, of course, which is why we have national directors, including for the Flevoland region. We are here today because we want to give you as an initiative a stage, preferably together with employers, to inspire nationwide.”

MyTec Foundation

Martijn Korf is Programme Manager Companies at the MyTech Foundation: “Companies want to have broadly trained, multidisciplinary technicians. The technicians of the future. We train those and we do that with 18 companies in different sectors. We are now four years in, which means the first students are now finishing. Some 130 students have now graduated. The business community is very closely involved and they also pay to bring issues into the training.” Training manager Erdogan Ozturk adds: “What is unique about this training is that we do not train for business, but design the training with business. The average educational institution is 10 years behind developments in business. We train with today’s knowledge.”


“TechGrounds is the ultimate IT breeding ground,” says Talent manager Bart van Zijl. “We help companies look at talent differently, focusing on women and cultural diversity. We saw a shortage in the labour market, but at the same time a focus on the same profiles. That’s not how we’re going to solve the problem.” The pathway at TechGrounds consists of three steps: discovery, orientation and training. “All our courses are online and students are guided by coaches. We train with a job guarantee, in consultation with employers. The employer pays for the training, so it’s free for students. That way we can get as many people as possible into the ecosystem.”

A smart network

Lars Beenen, intendant at TOMAS, concluded the programme with a question, “What was on your mind when you arrived here, and what thought are you leaving with?” Erdogan Ozturk, who attended TOMAS CONNECT for the first time: “It’s sometimes difficult to know how to follow up on an event like this, so it’s nice that here right you can get engaged in conversation straight away.” Sheyla Saadat (Xilio) has been working with TOMAS for a while. “Finding talents, especially in the native language, is always a challenge. That’s how I end up having my personal network of people for finding those right matches. TOMAS is a very smart network, thanks for that. You guys rock!

Text: Hester Gersonius
Photography: Brenda de Vries

Want to know more about TOMAS?

Check out the TOMAS initiative page to learn more about this talent development platform and what we are working on this year. Or visit the platform Vraag het TOMAS (Dutch). TOMAS is one of the activities through which the Amsterdam Economic Board is working on the theme of Meaningful work for everyone in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

27 January 2023

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